The Oregon Convention Center was aglitter on the evening of December 2 for the 27th annual Providence Festival of Trees Gala Dinner and Auction. Some 800 guests, decked out in festive gowns and gold-flecked tuxedos poured in, visions of Christmas trees dancing in their heads. From afar, the scene mirrored a more stylish Santa’s village at the North Pole. Perfectly wrapped gifts were stacked neatly under the trees, dining room tables dripped with tinsel and ice, and if you narrowed in on the sugar-laden row of gingerbread houses and holiday train tracks, Mr. and Mrs. Claus could be spotted swirling through the crowd.
The evening was a gorgeous Yuletide spectacle, an elaborate showing of wintry spirit and décor. Yet, the sentiment was anything but ornate. Guests were sprinkled with compassion, the will to help those in need, and that spirit spread as delicately as a snowflake.
To benefit children and adults requiring medical and financial assistance, event chair Linda Wright and Providence Medical Foundations added a heartwarming holiday spin to the giving season. Local companies and designers were asked to sponsor and decorate Christmas trees for guests to bid on during a live auction. These particular trees made even a bushy Noble look sparse! The Santa Baby tree, for example, was a jaw-dropping vision of ornamental fireside comfort, complete with gifts of three luxurious nights at the Grand Lodges resort, Skibowl passes, and a faux fur throw draped over a leather chair.
For the first part of the gala, guests mingled about the forest of 31 glimmering, hand-tailored trees. The 40 Blazing Years tree was adorned with paraphernalia signed by Portland Trail Blazers alumni, game tickets, plane fare, and accommodations for the April 2010 Los Angeles Lakers game, and a day camp for 20 with former Blazer point guard Terry Porter. For the younger crowd, Providence Portland Medical Center sponsored a Books, Books and More Books tree-shaped bookshelf with an extraordinary amount of reading material and stuffed animals for all ages. There was a tree for every palate and personality.
The silent auction featured smaller items, including personalized table trees, weekend getaways, and wine and chocolate baskets. At 7 PM, bidding was closed, and a message from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas was read as people were seated to dine on surf and turf with garlic mashed potatoes. News personality Dave Salesky of KATU-TV kicked off the live auction, and amid the cascading words of auctioneer Steve Talbot, the whip of bid numbers, clinking of wine glasses, and vibrant table chatter, the room took on a warm and lively air.
The beneficiaries for the 2009 gala included the Providence Medication Assistance Program, Center for Medically Fragile Children at Providence Child Center, Providence Gately Academy, Providence Cancer Center and the Providence Center for Advanced Heart Disease. The gala special appeal raised nearly $375,000 for charity care, contributing to the more than $800,000 raised during the Festival for Providence programs and services in Oregon.