by Kendra Wong – Victoria News
Admiring the decorations at the Festival of Trees, Shaun Cerisano admits he gets emotional when looking at one particular tree.
The tree was decorated by five-year-old Reid Van Rossum, as part of the annual event, a fundraiser in support of the B.C. Children’s Hospital at the Bay Centre and the Empress Hotel.
It’s decorated with ice skating, fishing, basketball, football, baseball and soccer ornaments.
“They’re the favourite things that (Reid) loves in life and the things that he gets to do thanks to the surgeries and treatment that he had at B.C. Children’s Hospital,” said Cerisano, philanthropy manager for the hospital’s foundation on Vancouver Island.
“When I see stuff like that, the emotional connection to the decor, that really hits home.”
Reid was born with a congenital heart defect called pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum, in which a valve failed to develop and obstructed the connection between the right and left ventricles of his heart.
Over the next three years, he endured a three-stage procedure, ending with a complex surgery this summer that helped supply blood to the lungs.
After recovering, Reid is more energetic than ever and able to enjoy the simple things such as running around and playing with his sister — even having enough energy to decorate a tree as part of the festival.
This year, the event is celebrating 25 years in Victoria, with a record-breaking 85 trees — 65 of which are at the Bay Centre, while the other 20 are located at the Empress – decorated by sponsors, local businesses, organizations and individuals.
The festival, which runs until Jan. 3, was started by a volunteer committee that recognized the hospital helps many patients who travel from the island to the mainland for treatment as well.
After more than 20 years, many families continue to make a tradition out of the downtown festival.
“Families will take their children and their grandchild and will go and look at the trees that we have. They’re really creative and really unique. It gives families an opportunity to celebrate the holidays,” Cerisano said, adding trees have been decorated this year in the theme of Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss.
“Families can teach their children as they’re looking at these trees that there are children in our province who aren’t as fortunate as them and have gone through a health crisis at a young age.”
The goal is to raise $200,000. So far, they’ve collected more than $140,000, already surpassing last year’s total of $136,000.
Funds raised go towards the Excellence in Child Health Fund, which supports research into childhood diseases, life-saving equipment and rehabilitation.