The Providence St. Peter Foundation will be ringing in the holiday season with the 32nd annual Christmas in the Forest fundraiser. Christmas in the Forest is an opportunity for local families and fans of holiday cheer to be immersed in a woodland wonderland with themes from Pretty in Pink, to New York New York. Nostalgic, glitzy and sometimes wacky, festive trees will be accompanied by a visit from Santa and a curation of holiday performances and activities.
The longstanding Christmas in the Forest is an annual fundraiser for the Providence St. Peter Foundation. A majority of the funds raised from Christmas in the Forest benefits a variety of foundation and hospital programs in addition to charity care that the hospital provides. This year, the foundation is highlighting the Providence St. Peter Sexual Assault Clinic and Child Maltreatment Center as a specific program that benefits from the fundraiser.
The elaborate trees, wreaths and vignettes that comprise the Christmas in the Forest are sponsored by local companies. In turn, a team of designers are matched up to decorate each tree and wreath to a certain theme.
“This year, we will have a New York New York tree, that comes with a trip to New York City” says Stacey Genzlinger, events manager for Providence St. Peter Foundation. “We will have a Christmas by the Seashore tree, and a Dr. Seuss tree. So, just really fun themes. We will also have a lodge tree that’s going to have old fashioned ski equipment and it’s going to have a comfy chair, like a comfy mountain lodge.”
Sometimes a group of decorators are connected to a sponsor, like in the case of Olympia Emergency Services. A group of emergency room doctors at Providence St. Peter annually sponsor a tree and the decorators for that tree are emergency room nurses.
Julie Heerlyn, a designer for the Christmas in the Forest says that Christmas tree decoration and design is in her blood. This is Heerlyn’s seventh year as a designer and her passion for holiday decor can be traced back to childhood, when her mother was a designer for Providence Centralia Hospital event, the Festival of Trees.
“I spent many hours cutting green floral wire and hot gluing whatever was needed,” recalls Heerlyn. “As the manager of the Emergency Center at Providence St. Peter, I see every day the programs and equipment the foundation is able to support because of the money raised at Christmas in the Forest. This is my way of giving back to the foundation and the patients in my department.”
Associated with the Christmas in the Forest in Olympia is the annual black tie Gala, this year on Friday, December 6. The dinner and auction will all take place in the midst of the Christmas in the Forest itself at Hotel RL in Olympia. Attendees of the gala will not only be able to take in views of each of the decorated trees but will also have a chance to bid on the trees during the event’s live auction.
“It’s a very fun night,” says Genzlinger. “John Curley is our auctioneer. He is formerly of Evening in Seattle and now he has a KIRO Radio show. Just super great energy, really fun. We had a great time with him last year and so we invited him back. The trees and wreaths are bought by the highest bidder at the auction and then the trees and wreaths stay in the room for the rest of the weekend, because then we open the ballroom to public viewing for Saturday and Sunday.”
On Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8, you can view the beautifully decorated trees. Children, families and those young at heart are welcome to view the trees, wreaths and vignettes in addition to the additional holiday festivities that abound.
Every hour on the hour, there will be entertainment groups including the SPSCC Jazz Band, the Olympia Flute Choir, the Melodies in Motion and a meet and greet with the characters from Ballet Northwest’s production of The Nutcracker.
Children will also have a chance to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, December 7, the Hands On Children’s Museum will visit the Christmas in the Forest with a myriad of holiday themed crafts and activities. Throughout public viewing, there will be an ongoing raffle with possible prizes including a tree, a wreath, a Great Wolf Lodge package and tickets to a show at the Washington Center for Performing Arts. Raffle tickets will cost $5 each.
“It’s just a great way to kick off the holiday season,” says Genzlinger. “One of my favorite things as I spend the weekend the ballroom, you overhear people bumping into each other, saying, ‘oh I haven’t seen you in years’ and it’s just a really nice community gathering. I think it’s a great community tradition to get into the holiday spirit.”
The Christmas in the Forest Gala will take place on Friday, December 6. Public viewing of Christmas in the Forest will take place on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8 at Hotel RL in Olympia. Admission to public viewing is $5. Children 12-years-old and under are admitted for free. Public viewing hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. To learn more about the gala and the Christmas Forest, visit the Providence St. Peter Foundation Christmas in the Forest website.