Chinook Regional Hospital Foundation axes annual Christmas Tree Festival auction due to COVID-19

The Chinook Regional Hospital Foundation has decided not to hold its annual Christmas Tree Festival due to COVID-19.
The Chinook Regional Hospital Foundation has decided not to hold its annual Christmas Tree Festival due to COVID-19. Global News

Often considered Lethbridge’s kickoff to Christmas, the Chinook Regional Hospital Foundation‘s┬áChristmas Tree Festival won’t be happening in the same capacity this year.

Typically, teams of decorators would add festive touches to around 25 trees at the ENMAX Centre, which would then go through an auction and be available for public viewing. The auction raises money for the hospital.

The event celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, and although COVID-19 is disappointing, this isn’t the first time organizers have had to pivot.

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“Back in 2009, H1N1 had sort of the same effect,” said executive director Jason VandenHoek. “The event was actually held at the hospital itself.

“Obviously with an outbreak of any sort, we couldn’t have the public in the hospital who didn’t necessarily need to be there.”

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This time around, with no new trees to decorate, the foundation has decided to take a trip down memory lane, posting the “best of the best” from the last five years on its social media pages.

VandenHoek said the auction typically generates around $100,000 for the hospital each year, and the loss of the event is unfortunate, but necessary.

“We’re definitely going to see a hit to the revenue that this event would have normally generated,” VandenHoek admitted.

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The CRH Foundation’s goal is to enhance community┬ácare by receiving and distributing funds to areas of need, including medical equipment, facilities, staff and patient education, health promotion programs and patient services.

VandenHoek said people can still donate in lieu of the event, but he understands times might be financially tough for many this year. He added that he hopes the social media displays will bring some holiday cheer to the community.

“Any support that we get will be appreciated,” VandenHoek said. “But really, what we’re trying to do here is put out some good Christmas vibes to take us into next year.”

Sponsored by Stringham LLP, the chosen trees will be posted from Nov. 12 to Dec. 12.