Festival of Trees to benefit children

Celestial Iron Works is featured artist

Folks searching for a unique alternative to the traditional tannenbaum can find one at the annual Festival of Trees.

The benefit auction features more than 50 distinctive trees decorated and designed by community organizations, local businesses, school groups, families and individuals. This year's tree designers include Kaw Valley Girl Scouts, Brandon Woods Retirement Community, the Lawrence High School Student Council and 6News, just to name a few.

"We always have such an eclectic group of donors," says Gail Vick, event co-chair. "From high-end merchants down to girl scout troops, everyone likes to get involved."

Proceeds from the annual event will benefit The Shelter Inc. The 23-year-old nonprofit organization provides emergency services for Lawrence youth. In the past, funds raised by the annual holiday auction were used to build a new, mortgage-free home to provide residential care for the children.

"Festival of Trees is our major fund-raiser," says Judy Culley, director of The Shelter. "It is set up through our organization. Some of the staff organizers are on our board, and we also recruit volunteers."

Vick estimates that net profits from last year's benefit reached about $35,000.

Celestial Iron Works, 619 N. Second St., is the featured artists for this year's benefit. The North Lawrence business that creates unique sculptural designs using various alloys will offer 25 original ornaments available for purchase for those who can not continue to bid when the prices get high.

Charles Ray designed the ornaments, which will sell for $25. Crafted out of steel and then painted with acrylics, the abstract trees spiral up to a star. The ornament could function anywhere on the holiday tree, he says.

"It can be placed on top of the tree, or it can hang," Ray says. "It is designed to be a tree topper, but they can hang 8 to 10 inches when stretched out."

In addition to the ornaments, artist Steen Kjorlie also has designed a tree that will be available for auction. Reminiscent of the bare fir tree in the holiday classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas," the tree is crafted out of bare steel and bends to one side. The tree is replete of ornaments except for a lone, red globe hanging from the top.

"I just wanted a pathetic kind of tree that was just indifferent to it all," Kjorlie says of his design. "It is a decent cause, so I thought if I could make them some money, that would be great."

Also up for bidding will be Jayhawks on Parade member "Jayhawk as a Cow on Parade." Proceeds from the sale of the popular downtown bird also will benefit The Shelter.

Receiving this year's Unsung Hero Award at the auction will be Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, PA. The medical group provides care for the children at The Shelter.

"They have been our pediatrician since we started the organization," Culley says. "They have gone above and beyond to help us."

Public viewing of the trees begins Monday evening. Vick and co-chair Mitzi Gilreath are grateful for the support the community has shown in the past.

"The Lawrence community is so generous," Vick says. "It has become a longstanding tradition, and we are fortunate to have such generous people donating to this cause."


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