Festival of Trees elves gathered in their workshop Tuesday this week and are getting close to being finished with their preparations for the festival later this month. The group is just finishing up the last of the 34 trees they will adding to the corporate trees. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Festival of Trees elves gathered in their workshop Tuesday this week and are getting close to being finished with their preparations for the festival later this month. The group is just finishing up the last of the 34 trees they will adding to the corporate trees. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Festival of Trees organizers “optimistic” many smaller donations will replace lost larger sponsorships

Total raised for Red Deer hospital’s specialty clinics to be announced Dec. 13

With larger sponsorships taking a hit from the tough economy, a spike in smaller donations to the 2016 Festival of Trees just might “carry the day,” says an organizer.

“I’m a little bit optimistic,” said Iaian Park, president of the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation.

While donations from last weekend’s festival won’t be tabulated and released until Dec. 13, Park witnessed an interesting shift in the way people have been giving to the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation.

Some long-time businesses contributors “either didn’t sponsor us this year, or didn’t exist,” said Park. “It’s completely understandable,” considering the state of Central Alberta’s economy. He added Festival organizers downgraded expectations accordingly. They are now hoping to raise from $850,000 to $900,000 from the 2016 event compared to last year’s $1.6 million.

“But we had a lot of new people” supporting this year’s festival, including some businesses that upped their donations.

Families flocked to the event at Westerner Park, which was raising money for expanded clinical services at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. “There was an accumulation of smaller donations,” said Park, who noted more tickets were purchased in Candy Cane Lane and for the Taste of Red Deer food evening.

While Friday’s daytime attendance was slow, perhaps because of various Black Friday sales, Park said the school bands and choirs drew big crowds on Sunday.

Many events were still sell outs — including the wine tasting, preview dinner and Mistletoe Magic daddy-daughter dance. The Breakfast with Santa event was also a nearly full.

And there was also a good response to the first-ever 5-km walk and run, with about 50 people taking part in -1 C weather, said Park, who also noted that no decorated Christmas trees came back to the office, which means they were all sold to various bidders.

“Central Albertans are very generous when it comes to supporting charity — particularly when it involves the hospital.”

This year’s event will allow the hospital’s Medical Special Clinics to expand services to more clients with multiple sclerosis, Hepatitis C, and other complex medical conditions.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com