Festival of Trees beats fundraising goal, online auction still live

Braelyn and Emberly Hust have a good time talking to Santa during his Friday, Nov. 17 visit to the Vendome Events Center in Weiser during the 2023 Festival of Trees Open House. The 37th annual event raised $94,000 during the Nov. 16 Gala. Administrators say that, following the end of the online auction on Nov. 26, the event could raise $100,000. Photo by Nancy Grindstaff
Philip A. Janquart
Weiser Memorial Hospital Foundation’s 37th annual Festival of Trees, themed “Home for the Holidays” this year, has surpassed its fundraising goal and is on pace to reach the $100,000 mark.
 With the online auction still in full swing, the chances are looking favorable, the foundation poised to record the highest total amount in the event’s long history.
The goal for Thursday evening’s Gala, held at the Vendome Events Center on Nov. 16, was $92,000, but brought in an impressive $94,000.
 The event was well attended, auctioneers from Baker Auction Co. keeping nearly 300 guests engaged in robust bidding activity, some of the many festively decorated trees going for thousands of dollars.
 “It was an amazing event; we raised the most we have ever raised through the Festival of Trees last evening,” WMHF Executive Director Kimberly Burgess said on Friday.
 The latest tally does not include funds from Friday’s Open House, which featured live music, a visit from Santa, a Christmas Store, and the Sip ‘n Paint event.
 The online auction is still active through Sunday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m., with the proceeds to be added to the overall Festival of Trees fundraising total.
 “We still have the online auction … and historically we’ve raised around $5,000 from that, so we are very optimistic that we may hit the $100,000 mark this year,” Burgess said.
 The auction can be accessed by visiting www.2023weiserfestivaloftrees.afrogs.org.
There were 21 theme-decorated Christmas trees auctioned off at the Gala, bringing in a total of $32,000. The highest bid for a tree this year was $3,000. 
 Included in the live bidding was an Idaho Steelheads Hocky suite for 16 guests that is good for any game during the 2023-24 season. The package was valued at $2,500.
In addition, the Weiser Fire District donated a block of four hours, utilizing five firefighters for a total of 20 hours, to help with a project of the winning bidder’s choice, home or business, valued at $1,000.
 The Festival of Trees also received over $39,000 in sponsorships and ticket sales, on top of funds received through raffle opportunities and the Paddle Raise.
 The Gala would not be possible without the many volunteers that donate time to the effort.
 “It took us 18 man hours to string the ceiling lights (three men for six hours) and it took us 203 hours to set the tables, linen, silverware, glasses, and table décor,” Burgess explained. In all, it took a combination of 42 volunteers from Weiser High School and members of the Weiser community to get the job done in addition to the 89 volunteers it took to decorate the trees.
 “The money raised all goes back to the community, back to you in the services that we provide,” said WMH CEO Steven Hale, addressing guests during the Gala. “This year, in terms of expansion, we added what is the first MRI container [of its type] in the nation … there is actually going to be some nationwide advertising, or marketing, going on through Siemens in Weiser.”
 Siemens is the company that manufactured the new Siemens Magnetom Free-Max MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner the hospital received on June 5, 2023. The circular scanner was built with an 80-centimeter opening to quell symptoms of claustrophobia experienced by some and to accommodate larger patients who previously could not fit through the traditional 60-centemeter opening.
 The MRI is housed in a modular designed by Lamboo Medical, a company headquartered in The Netherlands that specializes in mobile, hybrid, and relocatable medical accommodations.
 “We added a new orthopedic surgeon; we now have Dr. (Matthew) Kai Elliot here doing total hips, total knees, anything else orthopedic related, so we just continue to add and do more and the money raised from here helps us to do that,” Hale added. 
 He also mentioned a respite room for families he anticipates being completed by the end of the year.
 In its long history, the Festival of Trees has raised over $700,000 to, “help further Weiser Memorial Hospital’s mission to save lives, improve health, and build community,” Burgess said.
 The foundation’s signature fundraiser of the year raises money for grant requests from hospital departments looking for means to improve services and programs for patients and the community as a whole.


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