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Forest filled with hope

Annual Festival of (Giving) Trees opens Thursday

Bonita Strait, of the Thorndike section of Palmer, puts a raffle ticket into a box in hopes of winning a giving tree during the 2008 Festival of (Giving) Trees. (click for larger version)
November 28, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Years ago, churches used to be built in forests. Next week, the forest is coming into the church.

That's because 113 trees, large and small, are taking over the floor of LaSalle Hall at Notre Dame Church for the 14th Festival of (Giving) Trees, the annual event in which the community rallies to fight cancer and fund research into preventing it.

"We have a record-breaking amount of trees, when we thought we'd have an issue getting trees with the economy," said organizer Sue Hapgood.

This year's Festival has at least five new features, some scheduled and others running all four days (Thursday, Dec. 2 to Sunday, Dec. 5). Besides the regular choral festival on Thursday night, this year's core musical event is Saturday's Caribbean/Spanish night featuring Los Soneros de Borinquen, a local extended-family group.

"Because we have a lot of Spanish people in our community, we thought we'd do a little more to get them involved," Hapgood said. "We're anxious to see how that turns out."

Also slated is a "Poinsettia Luncheon" which kicks the whole thing off at 11 a.m. Thursday at LaSalle. Hapgood said that's really aimed at expanding the Festival's educational effort, with three speakers — local historian and cancer survivor Robert Briere, a cancer nurse from Harrington Hospital, and Cheryl Osimo, cofounder of Silent Spring Institute and development director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. The Festival raises funds for both of those groups and Harrington's Cancer Center.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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