A Dash of Magic and Plenty of Hard Work

The enchantment of Festival of Trees is more about hard work than it is magic. The beautifully decorated trees, festive Carols by Candlelight, merrymaking of Santa’s Workshop, lighthearted 5K Fun Run, and the elegant Preview Gala are all bewitching, but they don’t happen by magic.

Presented by Friends of Hospice, the planning for the 39th annual November event that raises critical funds for Talbot Hospice has already begun. Selected as this year’s theme is “Holiday Traditions,” and will be carried throughout the Festival of Trees. For example, tree decorators will use “Holiday Traditions” when selecting ornaments and color schemes for their trees, which vary in height from 9 feet on down to 18 inches and smaller. The effort is being spearheaded this year by co-chairmen Karla Wieland-Cherry and Denise Haddaway.

Karla Wieland-Cherry (left) and Denise Haddaway are the 2024 Festival of Trees co-chairmen.

Consummate volunteers, both Karla and Denise are eager to spread awareness of the event and why it’s so important to support Talbot Hospice. There are multiple events within the auspices of Festival Trees, which will be held from November 30 through December 3. Returning this year is Santa’s Workshop, which was so popular last year that it will be held over two days in 2024. Carols by Candlelight also returns to delight audiences with song and dance, and much more. Beautifully decorated trees of all sizes will dazzle in the Gold Room of The Tidewater Inn. The 5K Fun Run is perfect for the running and walking enthusiasts. The Preview Gala will enchant this year and serves as the opening party of the four-day event.

Karla has been involved since 1987 when she was home from college during Thanksgiving break. Over the years, wherever there was a need for a volunteer, Karla stepped in to help. In 1998, Karla was one of the first nurses to provide patient care in the newly built Talbot Hospice House. Eventually, the Festival of Trees became an annual tradition with her own family, with each one pitching in.

Karla admits that it’s a lot of work for the entire Festival of Trees committee but that it’s always rewarding to see the final touches come into focus. She adds, “We can’t thank the community and businesses enough for their support financially and the volunteer work that takes a year to plan and put together.”

Denise has been in the health care profession her entire career so when the opportunity arose to be co-chairman, she couldn’t refuse. “My passion has always been to help people so being involved with Festival of Trees is a great way to get something accomplished,” Denise said.

Friends of Hospice was formed in 1984 and began hosting the Festival of Trees in 1986 to raise money for the Talbot Hospice Foundation. To date, close to $4 million has been raised by the Festival of Trees to assist with Talbot Hospice’s operating budget.

Talbot Hospice was founded in 1981 to provide hospice and grief support services. As the sole licensed hospice provider in the county, Talbot Hospice serves patients wherever they call home – private residences, nursing or assisted living facilities, as well as Hospice House. Fees for care are administered on a sliding scale depending on a patient’s ability to pay and no patient has been denied admission to the Hospice House for financial reasons.

Because of limited funding and reimbursement, Talbot Hospice relies on the generosity of friends and neighbors to provide these services. The support Talbot Hospice receives from the Festival of Trees is vital in helping fulfill its mission.

“Through fun and festive holiday activities, the Festival engages the community in support to, and understanding of, the hope and compassionate support Talbot Hospice provides to those facing life-limiting, serious or end-of-life illnesses, explains Wes Williams, Director of Marketing & Development of Talbot Hospice.

Molly Kirsch, Talbot Hospice Executive Director, adds, “The Friends of Hospice stand as steadfast pillars of support within the very fabric of our organization. Their dedication and generosity breathe life into our programs, offering comfort and compassion to those in need throughout Talbot County. Through their tireless efforts, the Friends of Hospice has invested significant time and hard work in advancing our mission. The proceeds from events like the Festival of Trees, along with their ongoing efforts, are vital in offsetting the costs of running the Hospice House 24/7 and supporting essential programs such as Palliative Care and Grief Support.”

Karla and Denise said that the public can look forward to a few surprises this year, with details to follow soon. It’s not too late to join a committee and help make the 39th year a success. Both tree and event sponsorships are currently being sought. To learn more, visit www.festival-of-trees.org or call Karla at 410-310-8421 or Denise at 443-995-4431.

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