When Patti Kelleher began volunteering at the Holiday Tree Festival in 1982, one thing stood out to her: The joy on people’s faces.
“A family came in that looked like they didn’t have much, and they lit up. And I thought ‘what a joy,’” she recalled. “Look at what we are giving people. Their kids had never seen anything like this before and that was just magical.”
That experience kept Patti coming back to the festival for 38 more years, serving as a volunteer and at times, festival chair.
The Holiday Tree Festival returns for its 40th year November 13-16. Like last year’s festival, it will be virtual due to COVID-19 precautions. The festival, presented by the volunteers of Akron Children’s Hospital, has raised nearly $7 million to support the hospital’s patients and programs since it began in 1982.
“It’s been magical from the beginning. It’s been a very special thing,” Patti shared.
Since its beginning, the Holiday Tree Festival has always been free for the community to attend, and former Akron Children’s CEO Bill Considine’s commitment to not charging the community admission is something Patti will always remember.
“Back then there were a lot of tree festivals that began popping up and all these people were charging. And Bill said ‘We will never. This is our gift to the community’,” she said.
Patti became involved at Akron Children’s after she got to know Marilyn McGuckin, former director of volunteer services at the hospital, while her son was a patient.
“I started volunteering at Children’s so I was already in the door when I started volunteering for the Tree Festival,” she said. “I just believe in Children’s. Children’s is wonderful. It is a national treasure.”
Like many in the community, Patti hopes that next year’s festival will be in person.
“Hopefully next year we’ll fill the place with people and beautiful trees,” she said.
This year’s festival will feature:
- 53 trees
- 11 silent auction trees
- 50 wreaths
- 49 holiday gifts
- 45 silent auction items
In addition to the above items, there will be a train table including Joe Tait’s treasures – trains, books, photos, memorabilia and accessories up for auction. The table was decorated by Dr. Robert and Karen Klein and Greg Szucs. All items will be available for purchase from 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
To view this year’s items and bid or purchase, visit www.akronchildrens.org/treefestival.