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Sweet Tree at Festival of Trees Honors Ankeny Girl Who Died of Cancer

ANKENY, Iowa –Christmas Eve is now five weeks away, and a holiday tradition for many families kicks off this week.

The Festival of Trees and Lights runs Wednesday, November 21st through Sunday, November 25th. In addition to getting you in the holiday spirit, it raises money for an organization that helps children.

The Moomeys are getting into the holiday spirit with a sweet tree.  Rebecca Moomey said, "We found the cotton candy, the gum balls, the cookies and the doughnuts."

The Moomey family and The Sparkle Run Committee are decorating a tree for the festival in memory of Erin Moomey. The theme is sweet. "We're hoping people can see the bright colors and the sparkles and just remember Erin's smile and that she would have had her sweet 16 this year," said Erin’s former teacher and committee member Andrea Valdez.

Erin was diagnosed with leukemia in February of 2013. Rebecca said, "Unfortunately after eight months of treatment, she passed away in October of 2013 at the age of 11 years old."

Since then, her family has decorated a tree for the Festival of Trees and Lights, along with help from the Sparkle Run Committee, which was started by two of Erin's teachers. Valdez said, "Erin was the most lovable spunky little girl. She just lit up my classroom that 3rd grade year."

This is the 35th year for the Festival of Trees and Lights. The UnityPoint Health Foundation puts on the event to benefit Blank Children's Hospital. It raises $500,000 each year for the Child Life Program and the Center for Advocacy and Outreach.

Julia Richards Krapfl with Blank Children’s Hospital said, "Even if your children are not sick and did not stay at blank children's hospital, chances are they're benefited because their provider took a class through us or they had a Child Life Specialist there when their child was getting a shot or something, so lots of outreach, lots of programs that touch everybody across the state."

The Moomeys hope you see their tree and think of their daughter.  "For us it's just to keep her memory alive and hope someone gets joy out of what we've done.”

About eighty-five decorated trees will be set up inside the Veteran's Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center for The Festival of Trees and Lights.    The event also includes activities for kids, and you can vote for your favorite tree.  The festival runs Wednesday, November 21st through Sunday, November 25th. Admission is $5 at the door. You can find the hours listed on its website.