Festival of Trees fundraiser sets record

Another year, another record, another grateful hospital department benefiting from some Red Deerian generosity.

Another year, another record, another grateful hospital department benefiting from some Red Deerian generosity.

The 2013 iteration of the Festival of Trees brought in $1.28 million for the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, besting the event’s previous record of $1.22 million set last year. The holiday-themed fundraiser has now run for 20 years, raising nearly $10.8 million; 2013 marked the fourth time over $1 million has been raised in a single year.

The majority of the funds raised this year will go towards purchasing new equipment for the Diagnostic Imaging and Urology departments and the operating room at Red Deer Regional Hospital. The big item, at $650,000, is a flat panel detector that will improve imaging quality, allow for faster diagnosis and treatment, reduce patient radiation exposure, and allow for treatment of bariatric patients who presently cannot be treated due to weight restrictions on the existing unit.

The three departments collaboratively will be able to benefit from the technology, which aids in the detection of prostate issues, cancers, and other procedures requiring a surgical environment, including the removal of kidney stones. The device will be the first of its kind for urology treatment in Alberta Health Services when it is installed in summer 2014.

For the festival’s 20th anniversary, the fundraising total was not the only record to fall — attendance was also at an all-time high with 24,300 guests attending the series of festival events. After a very successful 2012 event, the organizing board kept a lot of things the same, and the public responded again.

“Last year we had a lot of changes, so this year we were definitely on track with the same thing. We were quite happy that we were able to pull it off again,” said Health Foundation project officer Alaine Martin.

Weather hampered the festival’s start this year as the Santa Claus Parade, to be run in conjunction with Festival Lights the Night, was cancelled. But nothing could stop the public appetite for the other events between Nov. 20 to 24.

“We had three events sell out quite quickly this year, which was a first. We always seem to have no problem selling out Mistletoe Magic tickets within the first few minutes that they go on sale, but Breakfast with Santa was a pretty close second and then Festival of Wines was right after that,” said Martin.

In addition to the big ticket items being purchased with the money raised, $185,000 from the total will be split between all of the 37 units at the hospital as a special 20th anniversary initiative. Departments such as Maintenance, Food Services and Receiving each applied to the foundation for $5,000 in funding to be spent on equipment, tools, or anything else needed by staff or to improve the patient experience.

“We felt it was our way to reach out to a lot of the units that don’t necessarily get to apply for funding through the festival,” said Martin.

The biggest chunk of money donated came from Avalon Central Alberta — $130,000 reflecting the profit it would have made off of the ‘Trade-itional Holiday Home’ it built for the festival in Vanier Woods East. That home, on the market for $990,000, has not yet sold and remains open for tours.

More than 2,600 volunteers and 1,500 volunteer entertainers were part of the 2013 festival.