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Trees with all kinds of trimmings help a hospital

December 04, 1986|GERALD FARIS

As Christmas trees go, they're not exactly the drag-out-the-old-ornaments, toss-on-the-tinsel variety.

Some drip strings of pearl-like beads. Others have ceramic ornaments in the form of cottages and castles, or harlequin dolls and silver masks.

One is decorated exclusively with Barbie dolls, each in a different hand-sewn dress, while another is a tree of clowns and balloons, topped off with Raggedy Ann and Andy.

In all, there are 55 trees with individual themes, and they are the green and white-flocked stars of the "Festival of Trees," an annual fund-raising event at Torrance Memorial Hospital that gets under way tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. inside a big white tent on a parking lot behind the hospital at Skypark and Hospital drives.

(The trees also will be on view Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $1 at the door. Various musical groups will add sounds to the sights, and there also is a boutique offering holiday items and a refreshment stand with cookies and cake.)

The idea for the festival, which hospital officials say is unique in the South Bay, was borrowed three years ago from a children's hospital in Denver. Trees are auctioned and the money--which came to $25,000 last year--aids a variety of hospital community service activities, ranging from support groups for burn and cancer victims to the annual teddy bear clinic where children have toys repaired and learn about emergency services.

Hospital executive Marc Mattsson said that while raising money is at the heart of the festival, it also is a way to help people celebrate the holidays.

"We want to reach out to the entire South Bay and Peninsula area, and have individuals and organizations sponsor trees, others designing them, and people decorating them," he said. He hopes 10,000 people will see the trees before the festival ends. Last year 4,500 came to see them.

Tree designers and decorators are a combination of professionals and imaginative amateurs whom Nancy Jo Hill of the hospital staff calls "talented, wonderfully creative, good-hearted people who just enjoy it."

Corporations, community groups and individuals sponsor the trees, which can cost several hundred dollars to decorate. Work on choosing themes, designing trees, and finding or making ornaments begins in the spring.

People sponsoring trees have different reasons for doing it.

Tim and Debbie Kopack of Torrance said they got into it because both of their children were born at Torrance Memorial. Their theme--"Peace Now More Than Ever"--came from a bumper sticker they saw on a passing car.

"The idea is to use little fabric dolls of children from all countries of the world," said Tim Kopack. "The children symbolize peace."

Debbie Kopack said she got the idea for the dolls from cookie patterns. The 200 little stuffed dolls were made by the Kopacks and employees of their fabric screening and T-shirt business.

The hundreds of seashells she has collected for the last 20 years led Margaret Collin to create "King Neptune's Noel," a 10-foot-high tree decorated with more than 300 seashells and 525 tiny lights. Even the angel on top is made of two large shells bordered with beads.

"I thought I could use all the shells I had in my garage, and that got it going," said Collin, who sprayed glitter on sand dollars and used fishing tackle to attach shells to metal rings and transform them into ornaments. Several friends helped her decorate the tree.

The Torrance PTA Council decided to sponsor a tree they call a "Beary Merry Kissmas" as a project and 10 women got together and made small "Care Bear" ornaments. They also did Christmas greetings in needlepoint, which were put in small gold frames and hung on the tree--along with Hershey's Kisses candies. "This is six months' work," said coordinator Cindy Scotto.

In addition to hard work, tree decorating also can require some quick changes of plan. Hospital volunteer Vivian Buehler hit on her "Castles in the Snow" tree theme last February and ordered the ornaments she needed. But they never were delivered because of a Hong Kong dock strike. With only a few weeks to go, she wound up making many ornaments herself and acquired the ceramic castles--which are attached to the tree trunk with wires--from a Peninsula artist.

The trees will be auctioned on "Festival Night" Friday, where more than 400 people who have paid $25 for the sold-out party will enjoy buffet dinner, dancing to a live trio, and the tree auction.

There will be bidding on 51 trees--41 by silent auction, where people write their bids on a sheet of paper next to the trees, and 10 with an auctioneer. Last year, the top tree went for $1,800. Another brought $1,200, and the average bid was in the $300 range. Hill said the bidding can get "hot and heavy," even the silent bidding, where some people wait by the tree they want and write down several successive bids in an effort to top their competitors.

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