Event brings holiday cheer to area

Trees adorned with tinsel, garland and lights lit up the hallways and common rooms of The Gardens at Wapakoneta this past week as residents and community members flocked to check out the Christmas scene.
The 13th annual Festival of Trees was held during this past week and weekend, and included more than 80 donated items, which were all auctioned off to festival bidders.
A silent auction was held to bid on the trees and specialty items decorated with Ohio State ornaments, Hawaiian colors, snowflakes and tractors — just a few of the attractions at the event.
“My favorite part (of this event) is seeing all of the people and excitement over the items and the joy it brings to the residents that live here,” The Gardens Admissions Coordinator Diana Fritz Miller said.
The festival, which began Wednesday and went through Sunday, brought in numerous people to check out the decorated items. All of the proceeds from the event will go to support The Community Health Professionals of Tri-County Hospice Program.
“The bids range from little to astronomical amounts,” Fritz Miller said Saturday.
Community members were able to bid on items, and on Sunday the silent auction closed, and the highest bidder on each item took it home.
Community Health Professionals Marketing and Volunteer Coordinator Niki Du Vall and The Gardens Activity Coordinator Brenda Meckstroth helped organize the event, along with help from the Village Green.
Local businesses, organizations and community members were among the ones who donated the decorated trees and specialty items to the event this year.
On Saturday afternoon, Fritz Miller said that the event brought out approximately 45 families, who had their photos taken with Santa Claus, who made an appearance.
This event not only brings out the community, but Fritz Miller said it bring out a lot of the elders who live at The Gardens to mingle and see the Christmas cheer.
“It gives the elders a lot to think and talk about,” Fritz Miller said. “They just really enjoy it.”
This holiday event is something that the residents, along with the community, look forward to each year, as it helps kick off the holiday season.
Wapakoneta resident Linda LaMarr brought her two grandchildren, Taylor and Bradey Miller, out to check out the decorated trees and specialty items on Saturday evening, as she has been donating a tree for many years.
“My mom used to be out here a few years ago,” LaMarr said.
LaMarr said her late mother enjoyed The Gardens, so she, along with a few of her family members, decorate and donate a tree each year to the festival.
LaMarr said she has a lot of history here, since her mother was a former resident, as she enjoys catching up with the residents.
“I enjoy seeing the different things and enjoy seeing the people,” LaMarr said.
This year her family did a snowflake theme, where she used a white tree with blue decor.
Taylor, 7, said her favorite tree was the Ohio State themed tree, which was decorated with Ohio State ornaments and items.
Other festival donators, Terry and Rick Kantner decided to donate a John Deere decorated tree, in honor of Terry’s father, Harold Schaub.
“My dad redid about 12 tractors and rode them in parades,” Terry Kantner said. “We decided to do a tree in honor of him.”
Terry Kantner said this is a great way to give back, because the hospice program took care of her husband’s mother.
“It just makes you feel good,” Terry Kantner said. “We try to give back.”
Each year, the Kantners donate a tree, and last year they donated an Ohio State Christmas tree, which brought in $1,000 for the event.
Kathy and Doug Oakman, friends of the Kantners, enjoyed looking at all the different trees and decorations at The Gardens.
“My favorite is the ‘book tree,’” Kathy Oakman said, of the Christmas tree with children’s books adorned around it.
She said her second favorite was the tree that included a lot of gold ribbon adorned on it.
“This is great for the residents,” Kathy Oakman said. “And we get to visit with many people.”