November 16th, 2017 8:51 AM by Amy Stonesifer
If you’ve been living in the Sandhills for any length of time, then you are surely aware of one of the holiday season’s most anticipated local events: the Festival of Trees at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst. For twenty-one years, the festival has been lighting up the hotel – and people’s spirits – in Moore County around the holidays; last year alone, 12,000 patrons visited the vast display of trees sponsored and decorated by a wide range of local businesses.
But did you know that this isn’t just a holiday event for the sake of the holidays? It’s actually the single biggest annual fundraiser for the Sandhills Children’s Center, the oldest and largest organization serving special needs children (ages birth to five years old) in our community.
“We’d been operating for years under the assumption that people knew who the festival benefitted,” says Robin Duff, one of the organizers of the event. “But recently it’s been made clear that many locals had no idea.
“We really want to get the word out that every dollar raised by this event benefits a child with special developmental needs.”
A worthy cause indeed.
Sandhills Children’s Center was founded in 1970 serving one special needs child. Today, it is a private, non-profit organization that offers an inclusive child developmental day program for children with and without special developmental needs, twelve months a year. The Children’s Center provides educational programs, therapeutic and nutritional services, and family support that help children with disabilities such as Down Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses and developmental delays.
With two campus locations in Southern Pines of Moore County and Rockingham of Richmond County, the Center currently serves over 300 children on a daily basis. Over three-quarters of the children enrolled for developmental disability services come from poverty-level homes. Because of the low economic level of most center families, Sandhills Children’s Center has always maintained its commitment to build financial support for services through contracts with state and area operated programs, and the development of local public and private resources. Absolutely no child has, or will, be denied services due to their family’s economic status.
Fundraisers are critically important as well – especially the Festival of Trees, a huge draw for the community.
Now that you know where your money is going, here’s what you’ll get in return for your generosity when you make the Sandhills Children’s Center Festival of Trees part of your holiday plans:
The Festival and Auction
This year’s festival takes place November 29 through December 3. Wednesday through Saturday, come anytime between 10am and 8pm, and the entrance fee is simple – whatever you choose to donate. Enter this winter wonderland and enjoy over 100 gorgeous trees decorated in various styles, as well as the wreaths, gingerbread houses, and gift baskets you can bid on at the online auction site. Register to bid on over 200 auction items before 6pm on November 28, and you’ll also have a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card.
Throughout the festival, you’ll have the chance to participate in the following special events:
Opening Night Premiere
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. This special evening includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, a host bar, and live entertainment. The night also includes a special “bucket list” auction, such as trips to wine country and other locations. Tickets are $125 per person who is not a sponsor of the event.
Girls’ Night Out
Wednesday, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The Island Time Band will play live music and a cash bar will be available while the women of the Sandhills are welcome to come shop for gifts, participate in a raffle, and bid on more bucket list trips and experiences. Any monetary donation at the door gets you in.
Military Appreciation Night
Thursday, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. No admission at all for our veterans and currently serving members of the military. Come enjoy live music and a cash bar while strolling through the lit displays.
Ultimate Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
Friday, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Got an ugly Christmas sweater? The wearer of the ugliest sweater will win a $100 Kohl’s gift card – so you can shop for a really nice Christmas sweater, or anything you like!
Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 77 local and regional vendors will be selling holiday gifts and treats, clothing, pottery, jewelry, collectibles, accessories – you’ll find just about everything on your holiday shopping list. Admission is free for shoppers.
This year’s event promises to be the best yet.
“Every year,” Duff says,” I think, wow, we won’t top this year. And yet, whenever the next year rolls around, when it’s all set up and the lights are on and working, it really just puts you in the holiday spirit more than ever before.”
The funds raised from this event are significant and a big reason why SCC never turns away a child in financial need. The goal for the auction alone is always to raise $100,000. Last year, SCC got very close with $94,000. Because the event grows by leaps and bounds every year, Duff is confident that with the community’s support, the auction will hit the goal this time.
Don’t miss your chance to get in the spirit and support a truly meaningful cause at the same time. Visit the festival, attend a special event, bid on an auction item – and you’ll contribute to the reason for the season in more ways than one.
For more information, visit http://sandhillschildrenscenter.org/trees/