Fabulous decorations don’t just grow on trees you know.
Just ask Sara Adam. The sales representative from Sezlik.com is the creative genius behind their festive Christmas tree, which was once again named a winner at the Trees of Hope fundraiser hosted by and held at the Fairmont Château Laurier on Monday night.
This year’s theme honoured the 25th anniversary of Trees of Hope, a popular fundraiser that has, to date, raised more than $1.2 million for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
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All 32 trees have been sponsored and decorated by local businesses and organizations. The coniferous creations will remain in the hotel’s public spaces throughout the holiday season for anyone to come and check out. People can also vote on their favourite tree and make a donation to CHEO, which continues to face a health crisis that’s pushing the regional hospital beyond capacity.
The tree-trimming party was held late Monday afternoon in the hotel ballroom. There was live music that featured the welcomed return of Ottawa youth Sophia Pierce to sing a holiday classic, O Christmas Tree. Ottawa firefighters sold raffle tickets while guests bid on dozens of silent auction items — including overnight stays at Fairmont and Sofitel hotels.
The evening was emceed by Stefan Keyes from CTV News Ottawa. Meanwhile, a panel of judges that included CHEO’s chief executive, Alex Munter, was tasked with selecting a winning tree, based on the theme and criteria.
Fairmont Château Laurier general manager Geneviève Dumas welcomed guests while joined by the hotel’s canine ambassador, Stewart. He’s a black lab that can pull off an elf costume like no other dog. The teams also heard from CHEO Foundation’s new chief executive, Steve Read, before setting off to work their tree-decorating magic.
New this year were special ornaments created by young students of CHEO’s school-based rehabilitation services for kids with physical, developmental and other complex needs. Each tree got one.
This was the third year in a row that the Sezlik.com tree won the competition, which came with a $250 gift certificate to the hotel restaurant, Zoe. The luxury home sellers made all their own baubles and trinkets for their Silver Jubilee-inspired tree. They not only paid homage to the Château Laurier (its topper resembled the hotel, all fancy and castle-like) but also to the late Queen Elizabeth. Their decorations included her images on ornaments, from 25-cent coins to her 1977 Silver Jubilee walkabout in London, wearing her bubblegum-pink pleated dress.
For Sezlik.com, its participation in Trees of Hope goes back nearly 10 years. While it’s become a way for the colleagues to come together for a fun team-building exercise, they acknowledge that they never fail to take things up a level by putting their heart and soul into Trees of Hope, as well as other fundraising events for CHEO. “I really think the event has inspired us to continue our work with CHEO and to really invest in the philanthropy piece,” said Adam, while noting that she, along with Sezlik.com owners Charles Sezlik and Dominique Laframboise, have seen, in their roles as parents, how the funds raised by CHEO Foundation help children and families. Their enthusiasm earned the Sezlik team an award for Outstanding Small Business at a recent dinner held by the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
The Sezlik gang was joined by quite a few friends and clients, including high-tech executive Steve West, board chair of The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research.
Trees of Hope is a night many participants look forward to, including Emma Farinacci, fiancée of Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk. The players’ partners helped decorate a tree on behalf of the hockey club, complete with a miniature version of Sens mascot Sparty as their tree topper. “It’s so fun, and it’s such a great way to get everybody out in the community and supporting CHEO,” she told OBJ.social.
Ottawa Tourism’s tree is decorated with tiny packages, each wrapped in the organization’s logo designs and promoting experiential and local gift ideas, from a ski pass to Camp Fortune to cheese from Jacobson’s.
KPMG has been a Trees of Hope winner more times than it can remember over its 20-year history of supporting the fundraiser. Its team always makes its own homemade decorations and, this year, was all about inspiring positivity and healing.
“Every year we take the theme and we try and interpret what the theme would mean to the kids in care at CHEO, which sometimes is a little difficult because they’re not feeling very festive,” explained Kelly Benoit. “We try and create our ornaments so that they’re representative of what the families at CHEO are going through.”
Spotted on its tree this year was a blue iris, a symbol of enduring hope and courage.