Holiday tree festival raises money and cheer for Akron Children’s Hospital

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW)-- Preparations are underway in Akron for an event that will transform the John S. Knight Center into a winter wonderland.

More than 160 Christmas trees, many of them specifically themed and all creatively decorated with meticulous detail, will be on display during the Akron Children's Hospital's Holiday Tree Festival.

"There's a lot more to it than decoration. The community comes together just beautifully. It's so much fun to watch," said Mary Leuca, one of the organizers.

The trees, along with 90 wreaths, are all donated by volunteers. Many of them have a story behind their creation, including Linda Hartong's "critter tree."

"It's for my niece. I lost my niece when she was very young to bone cancer. She was 18 and then my good friend recently lost her daughter to pancreatic cancer. So it's in memory of them and I always have two angels for them," Hartong said.

Susan Golden was also placing the finishing touches on her tree on Wednesday.

"The tree is in honor of my transplant that I had 13 years ago, a double lung. And now I'm on the transplant list for my kidneys and I just feel thatI need to get out to everybody about donating their organs," Golden said.

"We have people from churches, organizations, Girl Scout troops, Boy Scout troops, youth groups from the schools. Individuals that are donating their time and money, and trees and wreaths to put this together for us," Leuca said.

The trees will all be priced and sold to benefit Akron Children's Hospital. The event has raised more than $6 million for the hospital since it began in 1982. It will begin with a gala on Friday evening during, which many of the trees will be sold.

The event opens to the public on Saturday and continues through Dec. 1, including Thanksgiving afternoon. Admission is free.

"If you are feeling frustrated, just go walk around and start talking to these people, and you come away so upbeat because they are all in such good moods. They are friendly and they are very giving and that's what I love about this," Leuca said.

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