For 32 years, the Holiday Tree Festival has been presented to the community by the volunteers of Akron Children’s Hospital. It is the commitment of the volunteers that has made the Holiday Tree Festival a successful event that draws more than 250,000 attendees annually.
“The commitment of the volunteers is a testament to how much they really care about the hospital,” said Vicki Parisi, volunteer services manager at Akron Children’s.
One such volunteer is Jolea Swann, who has been involved with the Holiday Tree Festival since 1995, though she also assisted with the first Holiday Tree Festival.
“I have four children, and three of them spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital during their younger years,” said Swann. “The Holiday Tree Festival is a way to give back to the hospital for all the nice things they have done for my family.”
In 1996, Swann was named chair of the special raffle committee.
The special raffle is a drawing for themed displays featuring holiday decorations and gifts, including the popular Ohio State University display, which usually includes a big screen TV.
Tickets for the special raffle are one for $1, or six for $5.
“The raffle offers opportunity for a wide variety of community involvement,” said Swann. “We have people who buy hundreds of dollars worth of tickets, and that’s their donation. They don’t want to donate a tree, but they still enjoy participating in the tree festival in that way.”
In addition to organizing the special raffle displays, the committee also decorates their own Disney-themed and American Girl® display.
“When I inherited the committee, it was just a tradition that the raffle committee decorated the Disney tree,” said Swann. “It is usually related to the latest Disney movie. This year it’s going to be a Mickey Mouse-themed tree.”
Jolea continues to volunteer each year because she believes the true meaning of the holiday season is to give back to others.
“I am always encouraging people to do things for others, and I think there is nothing more wonderful than doing things for children,” Swann added.
To learn more about the Holiday Tree Festival or to find out how you can volunteer, contact Volunteer Services at 330-543-8424.
To meet some of our volunteers and see holiday creations, visit the Holiday Tree Festival, Nov. 23-Dec. 1, at the John S. Knight Center. Admission to the festival is free. For more information click here.