Trees light up Friday night

For those looking for a way to kick off the holiday giving season, Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of Island County has the perfect answer.

The sixth-annual Festival of Trees lights up Friday night with the agency’s largest fundraiser, the black-tie gala and auction.

Last year’s reception netted approximately $80,000, which the agency split with Citizens Against Domestic Abuse. This year, CADA is not participating in the event, said Event Organizer Peggy Stanford.

The gala has already sold out, something Stanford said has never happened before.

“This is the sixth year, and every year it’s grown a little bit,” Stanford said. “There’s just so many good people in the community who have given and that’s helped this grow.”

Featured at the gala will be 13 trees that are currently being decorated, all of which will be auctioned during a live auction, along with 20 other items. Guests will also be able to bid on the evening’s centerpieces and 15 other items during the silent auction.

Proceeds from the event fund the screening and training of people who volunteer to be mentors. The agency currently has 168 children waiting to be paired with a big brother or big sister.

On Saturday morning, the festivities continue with the Teddy Bear Breakfast. Two seatings will occur, one at 9 a.m. and another at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $6 and all proceeds will go toward Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Lyn Bankowski, who is coordinating the breakfast said that several raffle prizes will be offered, including four Sonics tickets. Dancers from the Academy of Dance will perform, and Santa will even be on hand to spread the holiday cheer.

“All of the children are encouraged to bring a new stuffed animal that will be donated for children in crisis,” Bankowski said.

The festival concludes Saturday afternoon when the trees will be available for public viewing from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. This is free and people can vote for their favorite tree.

All events take place at the Elk’s Lodge on 155 NE Ernst St. For more information, contact Big Brothers/ Big Sisters at 279-0644.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at

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