Touring the twinkling lights of 70 sponsored trees at a downtown Victoria mall, shoppers who texted to vote for a favorite may not have even realized they were supporting teens across the province.
The 30th Festival of Trees Victoria, which ended Jan. 4, raised more than $171,000 for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, according to Philanthropy Manager Shaun Cerisano.
In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival raised $100,000 for the community, and Cerisano sees this as a sign that local businesses – key supporters of the initiative – are in a position to recover and are once again able to serve the community to support causes that are close to their hearts.
Companies sponsor the trees, which stand for weeks at the Bay Center where visitors can vote for a favourite. The new text-to-vote option that automatically adds $5 was added in late 2020. Cerisano credits her with boosting fundraising this year.
For all of its festivals, the foundation hopes to raise $250,000 to $300,000.
For the first time, all funds raised from the 2021-22 events support one cause, the Center for Mindfulness at BC Children’s. With the Festival of Trees, a community-based event, the foundation wanted to fund something that could benefit people across the province.
Every few years, the foundation reviews and resets its priorities, with the current three focus areas being oncology (cancer research), diabetes and mental health. The center helps patients, caregivers, families and healthcare professionals develop skills to manage stress and anxiety. It’s critical programming for those dealing with chronic pain, cancer treatments, or the stressors of caring for loved ones or patients, Cerisano said.
The Center for Mindfulness also offers an eight-week virtual mindfulness stress reduction program specifically for teens. It is available on referral from a doctor or psychiatrist.
When Victoria shoppers texted their votes and donations this winter, they helped fund mental health initiatives, as did the 70 Greater Victoria businesses that sponsored trees.
After the votes were counted, FIVE Behavior & Education Services Inc. was in the top three in the People’s Choice Awards, Don Mann Excavating was second, and Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society was third.
In the Spirit of Giving Awards, which recognize the best in online fundraising, DFH Real Estate came first, Victoria Residential Builder’s Association came second and The Hillyard Stephen Group third.
It was also the turn of the volunteer committee to vote for the Judges Choice Awards. This year, Team 4 Hope (donated by Mayfair Optometric) came first, StarFish Medical came second and Innov8 Digital Solutions third.
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