DES MOINES, Iowa -- Thanksgiving is this week, but you'll find a ballroom full of elaborately-decorated Christmas trees in Des Moines. This is the 34th year for Festival of Trees and Lights benefiting Blank Children's Hospital, but it's the first time one metro mom has felt such a personal connection to the event.
At 10 months old, Caroline and Kendall Grubb light up the room. Their mother, Kristina, was pregnant with the twins at this time last year. "We had a little hiccup towards the end of our pregnancy, so we knew they were going to come early," she said.
The girls were born at 30 weeks on January 1st. They were so tiny they had to stay at the neonatal intensive care unit at Blank Children's Hospital for the next two months. Their mom had spent much of the holiday season in the hospital awaiting their arrival. She said, "I remember walking into the NICU every day during the holiday season, and there was always this beautiful tree in the waiting room, and it kind of took my mind off things and also made it feel homey, in a sense."
This year, she decided to decorate a tree in honor of the girls and all those who cared for them. She got her best friend to help, and they made the decorations during nap time. Gina Geen said, "Our theme is what are little girls made of: sugar and spice and everything nice."
The tree will be on display during the Festival of Trees and Lights to raise money for the ChildLife and Outreach programs at Blank Children's Hospital.
"It's grown a lot over the years, and just last year the event actually raised net about $550,000 to support those programs," said Brenna Finnerty, Director of Development for Blank Children’s Hospital.
Families and business decorated 84 trees this year, and each has its own story. When it's over, the trees will be delivered to sponsors. Finnerty said, "It's actually just our staff and volunteers from Wright Outdoor Services that walk up, knock on your door, and deliver your 7 1/2-foot tree. It's kind of an instant Christmas."
The Festival of Trees and Lights is Wednesday through Sunday at the Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. Volunteers are still needed. You can find information on how to sign up or attend on the Festival of Trees and Lights website.