Christmas Forest raises $636,000, captures imagination of the community
Providence St. Peter Foundation is pleased to announce that the 27th annual Christmas Forest raised $636,000, a new record for funds raised. The event, sponsored by Titus Will, benefits the mission of Providence to provide health care to all, with special concern for the poor and vulnerable.
“We live in an amazingly generous community,” says Mick Phillips, a Providence St. Peter Foundation board member and local attorney who co-chaired Christmas Forest this year. “From the volunteers who spend countless hours planning and decorating, to donors who challenge us to turn a vision into reality, we all work toward a common goal. And that is to provide excellent and compassionate care for those in need.”
More than $250,000 was raised to create an outpatient palliative care clinic, the focus of this year’s fund-a-need. “The goal of palliative care is to come to the patient and help them live the best life possible, for as long as possible,” said Providence Palliative Care Medical Director Dr. Gregg VandeKieft. “Our team is trained to help relieve pain and suffering caused by serious illnesses, so the patient may live the fullest life they can.”
Olympia resident Becky Brewer was an early supporter of expanding palliative care to the outpatient setting. Her husband, Ron Sundberg, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, and received palliative care while an inpatient at Providence St. Peter Hospital, before his death in 2013. Becky shared their story in a video for the gala, and says, "Ron would be so happy to know that it will be easier for other people to be more comfortable while facing the challenges that serious illnesses bring to their lives."
This year’s raffle, sponsored by McKinney’s Appliance, held special significance for one family. A week before visiting Christmas Forest, 93-year-old Juanita Sharbaugh was hospitalized to monitor a spike in her blood pressure. Her daughter, Olympia resident Sally Sharbaugh says, during that time, “We had to miss a family holiday event, so Christmas Forest was our first family event we did afterward being released from the hospital, and we were trying to make a really positive experience for mom.” Sally purchased raffle tickets to support the Providence mission, and won the raffle tree, A Sweet Old Fashioned Christmas, designed by JoAnn Green and Lois Miles.
Sally says, “My mom raised five kids, so a classic World War II tree was the perfect tree for my mom, and captures all the memories we have growing up.” The tree will be the centerpiece of the family Christmas this year, the first year that the family will celebrate at Juanita’s house after her husband’s passing just a few years ago.
During the five-day event, thousands of visitors came to see the trees and wreaths that were decorated by dedicated volunteers. During public viewing, 20 different artistic groups from the community delighted attendees including Alleluia! Handbell Ensemble, Olympia Youth Chorus, and many local piano students. Stacey Genzlinger, Foundation events manager, estimates 300 volunteers participated, contributing more than 10,000 hours of their time to create this year’s Christmas Forest.