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Festival of Trees raises awareness, funds for Riverside University Health System Foundation

By in Press Enterprise on November 18, 2017

By George Paul

“For the love of a child.” That slogan, tied to the Festival of Trees — Nov. 24-26 at Riverside Convention Center — refers to the annual event’s focus, which is raising awareness and funds for Riverside University Health System Medical Center’s pediatric work.

It also relates to the Christmas holiday with kid-centric stories, crafts, music and Santa visits. Adults are sure to be amazed when they see more than 50 fancifully decorated large trees, miniature trees and wreaths.

The same weekend includes Festival of Lights activities at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, making the downtown area “an appealing place to go during the holidays. It really gives you a sense of community and family,” said Carolyn Harrington, volunteer festival chair-woman, who does a tree for her employer and longtime RUHS Foundation partner, KB Home.

Sandy Ramirez, a florist who runs The Flower Box in Moreno Valley, has designed trees for every festival, which has grown tremendously over the last 27 years.

“Originally, there were a lot of florists. A few of us still do trees,” she said, noting that the volunteers are more varied now.

Ramirez put together a “Nightmare Before Christmas” themed tree last year and plans to do another children’s one. She recalled how the designer of a 2016 Candyland tree “used an upside-down lampshade for a cupcake on top. There’s just so much talent.”

As a teacher, Susan Sewell was drawn to the event slogan. She first designed a tree in 2002, then returned to do it again last year (utilizing an “O Holy Night” theme) — both times for her Riverside church.

Sewell thought the inaugural Senior Stroll was so much fun that she’s been recruiting people to help as tree guides for the elderly.

“I’ve met so many nice people,” she said. “A big plus is making new friendships. They have some […]    

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