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Festival of Trees breaks record

The 19th annual Red Deer Festival of Trees has raised a record-breaking $1,225,000.

Over 23,000 people attended the festival, put on by 2,675 volunteers, featuring more than 1,500 volunteer entertainers and 540 donors.

The proceeds from events that ran from Nov. 17 to 25 will be given to the Department of Histopathology in Laboratory Services at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

The money will be used to upgrade equipment and technology used to test for disease.

“We seem to be keeping pace with previous years,” Alaine Martin, a project officer with the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, said on Friday.

Each year, funds raised from the festival goes to a specific department at the hospital. Last year, $1,020,000 was raised for new equipment for the Minimally Invasive Surgery Department.

“Histopathology tests any tissue that’s removed from our bodies,” Martin said. Over 26,000 tissue samples from 22 communities are tested each year.

The equipment that tests for diseases such as cancer is running at full capacity.

At the Red Deer hospital, the Central Alberta Cancer Centre is undergoing an expansion. The centre relies on the Department of Histopathology for its services.

Martin said the cancer centre expansion will increase the demand for tissue testing services “exponentially.”

The festival money will go towards upgrading administration systems, such as barcoding to identify tissue samples.

Most of this work is currently done by hand. One of the main problems faced by the department is mislabeled samples, which can lead to incorrect diagnoses.

“It’s all for streamlining the process and reducing the potential for error,” said Martin.

Funding will also be used for testing equipment and machinery for lab staff.

As for the Festival of Trees itself, Martin said there were too many highlights to count, however, she said the Santa Claus Parade had more attendees than ever.

“Mother Nature of course helped with that,” she said.

One highlight she did identify was Breakfast with Santa, which was expanded, and still sold out.

Martin said the presentation of the Lion King by Strive Dance Academy had the 700 attendees entranced.

While the festival featured some changes this year, such as moving Candy Cane Lane to its own pavilion, Martin said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

As for next year — the 20th anniversary of the Festival of Trees — planning has already begun.

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it to be honest, but we’re planning on outdoing ourselves,” Martin said. “It’s pretty hard to keep one-upping such fantastic events.”



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