Teri Farr is executive director of the Kootenai Health Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that raises money for the benefit of Kootenai Health and its patients. This weekend is the foundation’s Festival of Trees fundraiser, which has raised more than $3.4 million since 1989 by auctioning off beautifully decorated Christmas trees sponsored by the community. Many are loaded with expensive, donated prizes. This year, the money raised will be used to start wellness programs at the Kootenai Cancer Center. Farr sat down with The Spokesman-Review to talk about the event.
Q. How much do these trees usually go for?
A. We’ve had a tree go for over $10,000. Typically the auction trees run anywhere from $2,000 on up. This year, we have a tree worth over $20,000 that incorporates all the elements for a wedding. Another one this year, the Mountain West Tree, is going to feature an afternoon cruise on Duane Hagadone’s sailboat. That is with crew and dinner at The Beachhouse.
Q. So the trees have décor geared toward these prizes?
A. Well, you’ll have the whole range. We will have everything from an exquisite tree, just beautifully decorated, to a tree that comes with all kinds of items and entertainment packages. That (Mountain West Tree) also comes with a bed-and-breakfast stay, massages. … I think that’s one of the unique things about the festival. Different organizations … sponsor the trees. But then they actually go out into the community and solicit broader participation in their tree. It’s such a good example of the … great impact people can have.
Q. Who will create the trees?
A. There’s a whole variety. Some groups may decorate their own tree. There are others that say we’d like to sponsor a tree but we’d like you to provide the decorators. So (our staff) will find a decorating group and the sponsoring company will give them a budget. A lot of times, they actually go beyond and get even more items donated to it.
Q. How many volunteers does the Festival of Trees have?
A. Over 1,000. The number of volunteers always stays steady because that’s what it takes to create the festival.
Q. What is an average budget a company will give to your (volunteer) decorators?
A. About $1,000.
Q. You’ve been doing this since 2000; do you have a favorite tree?
A. I do (laughs). We had a sponsor who pulled out … at the very last minute. I called a friend of mine who I knew was very talented … and she created the most beautiful tree for $500, and it sold for $5,000. That was my very favorite tree. And it’s my favorite story because people come in and … they’re afraid they can’t do a tree that will meet the expectations they’ve created in their minds. So we love to tell that story. That’s my favorite tree. I wish I would’ve bought it.