Hope and the tree

And so it goes, a grown prairie boy, his idle crane, financial means, a pencil and napkin in hand and the Tree of Hope Kelowna was born. 

Unlike other Tree of Hope campaigns worldwide the Kelowna tree was originally a symbol of hope for our community alone and brought together the elderly, the very young, the wealthy, the poor, the oppressed and people of all walks of life and gender for fellowship. I remember the early years of the tree’s “light up” as a grand event filled with volunteers, a cocoa station, a hot dog stand, children’s fishing booths, face painting, cookie decorating, caroling, dancing, merriment and a prayer often offered by a local Pastor and all for free but donations were accepted. This came to be a “major” event in the lives of many children (young and old) and part of their Christmas anticipation. 

It did not stop there, registrations were collected from hundreds of single parents whom needed help at Christmas for a formal dinner to be held in their honour. Information about their children such as ages was collected at registration time. It is hard to imagine how it must have felt to get dressed up and attend an event at a beautiful hotel when making ends meet each day was the normal challenge. This evening was designed to be a place of warmth, friendship and hope for parents raising the next generation on their own. Each parent received a basket filled with the groceries to prepare their Christmas meal and gifts specially chosen for each one of their children and themselves. It is often said that it takes a whole community to raise a child and it is charitable acts like this that gave strength to “the least of these” at what can be a very sad, difficult and depressing time. I cannot imagine being unable to afford a healthy Christmas dinner and gifts for my children and preventing that from happening in our community should be applauded. 

20 years later the tree still lights up the season’s night sky but I believe many drive by and take it for granted now without putting much thought into what it signifies. Visitors are impressed by the size and the number of lights but I question if they understand why it stands along our major highway and for which purpose it serves.  I understand The Tree of Hope, in partnership with the TD Bank and Landmark Centre tenants donate to specially select local organizations; such as the 2013 recipient Courage for Youth (Founder Debra Walker and Planning and Development Carolyn Stober) and good works are done through the year with these donations.  I congratulate the Stober Family on the 20th year of their Tree of Hope. One must appreciate the substantial cost, hard work and preparation to erect the tree each year and this year the costs related to the “Tree of Hope Christmas Pop-Up Market” like a corporate event planner, a synthetic rink, and I would imagine permits, insurance and security. 

I find myself wishing the celebrations returned to their humble beginnings and it still felt like a local celebration of hope as opposed to a marketing strategy and advertising for Landmark 6 and Landmark Centre, the results were immediate and less fortunate families had gifts on Christmas morning, turkey dinner, and faith, hope and charity were at work on such a blessed day. I would guess that many less fortunate cannot afford to pay the donation of only $5 and purchase/participate at this year’s “Pop-Up Market” and perhaps take a skate on the synthetic rink and for this I feel their potential exclusion. I read that partial proceeds will go to the Tree of Hope Foundation and their recipient of choice but I feel like a part of this event is missing. I was always taught that it is the secret charitable act with no fanfare that counts most.

This year I look upon the tree and its crowning star and as a believer I hear the words “ I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” and I offer a silent prayer that hope lives in those needing it most this time of year. 

Shauneen Hicks 

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