Trees of Hope for CHEO at the Fairmont Château Laurier makes it official: the holiday season is here

Hundreds gather for annual tree lighting ceremony and auction in support of Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
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There's always that first moment at Trees of Hope when you turn the corner into the main ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier and suddenly see it: dozens of trees brilliantly and beautifully adorned with lights and ornaments.

And because you can’t deny the magic of holiday decorations, your heart beats a little faster, your eyes grow a little wider.

The festive scene is part of the Trees of Hope benefit hosted each year by the historic hotel in support of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. 

Local businesses and organizations came together Monday to decorate their respective trees, followed by a lighting ceremony with hundreds of invited guests and a silent auction featuring 270 donated items to bid on. 

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From left, Michelle Martin, a director with BDO Canada LLP, works alongside her colleagues Adam Skoczylas and Claudine Maugan to decorate their tree for the 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario), hosted by the Fairmont Château Laurier on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Two-year-old Deanna Cavanagh at the Fairmont Château Laurier for the 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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Hundreds of invited guests attended the Fairmont Château Laurier's Trees of Hope for CHEO lighting ceremony and silent auction. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Free prizes were won throughout the night, as well as raffle prizes for: two plane tickets to anywhere that Air Canada flies in North America and a one-night stay at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello, with breakfast and a champagne bottle of Veuve Clicquot. 

On hand were CHEO Foundation president and CEO Kevin Keohane and the Fairmont Château Laurier’s new general manager, Rick Corcoran. He really wants to grow the event next year to raise even more money to help sick children in our community.

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From left, Fairmont Château Laurier general manager Rick Corcoran with Kevin Keohane, president and CEO of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Foundation, at the 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

In its first year, Trees of Hope showcased a half-dozen trees and raised a few thousand bucks. It’s since sprouted into a practical forest, with 35 trees. It's expected to raise somewhere between $110,000 and $120,000 this year.

“Let’s get 50 trees, let’s get 200 grand for CHEO,” Corcoran told OBJ.social. “Let’s do it!”

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BLG (Borden Ladner Gervais) regional managing partner and CHEO Foundation board member Katherine Cooligan with her husband, Jim Houswerth, next to the BLG tree, at the Fairmont Château Laurier for the 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO event, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Chief organizer Deneen Perrin, director of public relations for the Fairmont Château Laurier, is flanked by her kids, Alex, 15, and Sophia, 19, at the hotel's 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO lighting ceremony and silent auction, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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Hendry Warren LLP founding partner Ian Hendry, who's a long-time volunteer with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, with CHEO Foundation vice president Jacqueline Belsito at the Fairmont Château Laurier's 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO event. Photo by Caroline Phillips

For many in the room that night, Trees of Hope is the unofficial kick off to the holiday season. The evening was hosted by Jasmin Ibrahim from CTV Morning Live and included some of her Bell Media colleagues volunteering on the judging panel in deciding which trees best-captured this year’s themes.

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From left, Jasmin Ibrahim from CTV Morning live with Majic 100's Janel Steeper, Angie Poirier and Stu Schwartz at the Fairmont Château Laurier for the 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

The Sezlik.com tree won in the holiday healing through music category. Their inspiration: the 50-year anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in for peace at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal. The couple composed and recorded Give Peace a Chance without leaving their bed.

The Sezlik.com tree was adorned with paper chains made out of sheet music from the couple's famous peace anthem, a bunch of old 45 records found at Value Village, home-made guitar, flower and peace sign ornaments, and framed photos from Lennon and Ono's historic day in the hotel suite.

Participating in Trees of Hope was “like a dream come true” for team member Sara Adam, who never got to decorate Christmas trees when she was growing up. “I’m Jewish,” she pointed out.

It was also great fun to work together as a team, the real estate agent said. “We’re really good at concepts. The execution is harder.”

The team will have a chance to celebrate over their prize of a free afternoon tea in the hotel's Zoe's Lounge.

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From left, Sara Adam with Dominique Laframboise from Sezlik.com at the Fairmont Château Laurier for the 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

Keohane thanked the sponsors, including Tamarack, Terlin Construction, Canadian Tire and BLG, whose regional managing partner, Katherine Cooligan, was one of the judges. So was Catherine McLaughlin from Terlin. She fit in perfectly with the arts and crafts crowd; she made the costumes that her daughter Charlotte and her friend, Claire Goldberg, wore to decorate the Terlin tree.

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Catherine McLaughlin from sponsor Terlin Construction with her daughter, Charlotte, 15, (far right), who helped to decorate their company tree with her good friend Claire Goldberg, centre, at the Fairmont Château Laurier's 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO lighting ceremony and silent auction event, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

Keohane also took a moment to acknowledge the very recent passing of Claude Sauvé, 78, who retired only earlier this year as the long-time general manager of the Fairmont Château Laurier. He helped to grow Trees of Hope while his wife, Deborah, always volunteered as one of the judges.

“My condolences to all the Fairmont Château Laurier staff and the people here who knew and loved and respected the Sauvé family,” said Keohane. “We give them our very best, and I can tell you they’re with us here in spirit tonight.”

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Both Chris Vivone (Edelman Canada) and his wife, Sarah Grand (Engel & Völkers), seen with their kids, Michael, 10, and Ella, seven, had company-sponsored trees at the Fairmont Château Laurier's 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO lighting ceremony and silent auction event, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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Some of the partners of the Ottawa Senators team were back to decorate for Trees of Hope for CHEO on behalf of the Ottawa Senators Foundation. They were, from left, Olivia Donnelly, Janessa Shaw, Jessica DeMelo, Nicholle Anderson and Tara Borowiecki (she's expecting!). Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Brian Watters, vice president of operations for Myers Automotive, at Trees of Hope for CHEO with his company's tree, which had perhaps the best tree topper: a lit-up hub cap. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Highlights of the evening included hearing 11-year-old Sophia Pierce, a student of Stittsville Public School, sing O Christmas Tree while accompanied by Kimberley Dunn on piano. 

Here’s the backstory on how Pierce came to be a guest performer at this year’s Trees of Hope: Deneen Perrin from the Château Laurier heard her sing the national anthem at an Ottawa Senators game last month. She inquired, via social media, how to get in touch with the girl. It wasn’t hard. Her father, Chris Pierce, also works in the hotel industry. He's the GM of Les Suites Hotel Ottawa.

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Singer Sophia Pierce, seen with her parents, Chris and Victoria, and six-year-old brother Linden, at the Fairmont Château Laurier's 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO lighting ceremony and silent auction event, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

Perrin, who’s the director of public relations for the Chateau Laurier, is the lead organizer of Trees of Hope. She has a committee consisting of Sheefra Brisbin (Greenbridge Group), Julie Best (Ottawa Citizen), Carolyn Carson (Export Development Canada and Your Fit Life), communications and events management professional Gail Carroll, the CHEO Foundation’s Chantal Charbonneau and Stephanie Egan, media consultant Jenna Fyfe and Suzanne Valiquet from Momentum Planning & Communications.

The ornate trees will remain on display in the hotel’s public spaces throughout the holidays. Visitors are welcome to drop in and vote on their favourite tree while also making a donation to CHEO.

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Members of the Trees of Hope committee include, from left, Gail Carroll, Jenna Fyfe, Carolyn Carsons, Chantal Charbonneau, Deneen Perrin, Stephanie Egan and Sheefra Brisbin. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Marlene Piitz, Kasia Bernat, Jaquelyn Hatcher and Stacey Kenney from Merkburn Holdings decorated a tree for the Fairmont Château Laurier's 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO lighting ceremony and silent auction event, held Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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From left, volunteer decorator Grace Petschenig with Tim Hortons franchise owner Susan Dennison went with a 50th anniversary of the Rideau Canal skateway theme for their Tim Hortons tree, at Fairmont Château Laurier's 22nd annual Trees of Hope for CHEO. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

— caroline@obj.ca