Touring the twinkling lights of 70 sponsored trees in a downtown Victoria mall, shoppers texting to vote for a favourite may not have even realized they were supporting teens across the province.
The 30th Festival of Trees Victoria that closed Jan. 4 raised more than $171,000 for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, according to philanthropy manager Shaun Cerisano.
The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic the community raised $100,000 through the festival and Cerisano sees it as a sign local businesses – key supporters of the initiative – are in a recovery position and able to get back to supporting the causes they care about.
Businesses sponsor the trees, which stand for weeks in The Bay Centre, where visitors can vote for a favourite. The new text-to-vote option, which adds $5 automatically, was added in late 2020. Cerisano credits it for boosting fundraising this year.
Across all its festivals, the foundation hopes to raise $250,000 to $300,000.
For the first time, all funds raised with the 2021-22 events support one area, the Centre for Mindfulness at BC Children’s. With Festival of Trees a community based event, the foundation wanted to fund something that could benefit people across the province.
Every few years the foundation revisits and resets its priorities, with the current three being oncology (cancer research), diabetes and mental health. The centre helps patients, caregivers, families and health professionals develop skills to manage stress and anxiety. It’s crucial programming for those dealing with chronic pain, cancer treatments or the stressors of caring for loved ones or patients, Cerisano said.
The Centre for Mindfulness also has a virtual, eight-week stress reduction mindfulness program specifically teens. It is available by referral from a doctor or psychiatrist.
So as Victoria shoppers texted their votes and donations this winter, they helped fund mental health initiatives, as did the 70 Greater Victoria businesses that sponsored trees.
With the votes tallied, the People’s Choice award top three were FIVE Behavior & Education Services Inc. in first, Don Mann Excavating in second and Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society in third.
The Spirit of Giving awards, recognizing the top online fundraisers, saw DFH Real Estate finish first, Victoria Residential Builder’s Association second and The Hillyard Stephen Group third.
The volunteer committee also took its turn to vote for the Judges Choice awards. This year Team 4 Hope (donated by Mayfair Optometric) finished in first, StarFish Medical second and Innov8 Digital Solutions third.
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