Patients, families decorate trees to benefit Mary Bridge

Dragons and dolls will adorn trees at Tacoma charity event

Staff writerDecember 4, 2013 

There’s a dragon on top of Pam Brown’s Christmas tree this year.

Or rather a fire-breathing dinosaur, to keep with the Tacoma woman’s theme of “prehistoric paradise.”

Her team was one of 60 decorating on Tuesday at the Tacoma Convention Center downtown for this year’s Festival of Trees.

The holiday masterpieces will be auctioned off next week to benefit Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. The event has raised more than $21 million since 1987.

Brown had two large, electronic triceratops, and a steaming volcano to accompany her tree, sponsored by Abbott Construction of Seattle.

As grandson Avery Morgan, 9, twist-tied a toy brontosaurus to a branch, Brown explained that this was the fourth tree she’d done for the benefit. In previous years, she studied under a 25-year designer who retired, and this year she took charge of his dinosaur concept.

She said grandson John Lewandowski spent more than six years at the children’s hospital for chronic lung disease before dying about nine years ago at age 15 – a much longer life than doctors expected.

“If I can help Mary Bridge, that’s good by me,” Brown said.

That’s what brought four generations of 7-year-old Maci Hughes’ family from Sumner to decorate a tree. Maci was treated at Mary Bridge for leukemia and learned in October that she’s in remission.

To show their appreciation to the hospital, her family designed a “Hidden Treasures of the Sea” tree, with starfish and hand-blown glass ornaments. It was inspired by a porcelain mermaid Maci’s great-grandma had, which they used to top the tree.

“It just blew me away how many people give so much,” grandmother Lori Brank said about the family’s experience with the hospital.

And what was Maci doing to decorate the tree, sponsored by Brank’s BBQ restaurant in Sumner?

“Nothing!” she said with a big smile.

She was busy checking out a Hello Kitty tree across the room, which she said was definitely her favorite. Her eyes got big when she learned the celebrity would be visiting Tacoma for the festival. Sheila Jensen of Lakewood knows a woman who works in public relations for the character’s parent company, which inspired the Hello Kitty tree.

“She’s all about making new friends and being sweet and innocent,” Jensen said of the character.

There are about 100 stuffed Hello Kitty dolls on the tree, with a chaise lounge and vanity among the goodies to go with it. The tree is topped with a big bow.

“It’s not Hello Kitty without a bow,” Jensen said.

Phase II, a general contracting company in Lakewood, sponsored the tree.

The construction workers in coveralls were a comical contrast to the Hello Kitty theme.

“We had more pink in our shop than we’ve seen in years,” president Rick Hjelm joked. “It’ll be wonderful to have our man cave back.”

About 400 volunteers are part of this year’s festival, whose theme is “Bells Will Be Ringing.” A bell will be donated to the hospital for children to ring when they reach a milestone in their treatment, such as a last chemotherapy session or getting a cast off, festival chairwoman Patty Tabet Ferguson said.

She said Mary Bridge helped her daughter in the years after she was born 32 weeks premature. Her baby is 18 now and plans to follow in mom’s footsteps by volunteering at the festival as college allows, Ferguson said.

“If you say Mary Bridge, people just kind of flock,” she said. “I can’t cure cancer or do surgery, but I can give my time to this cause.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268


  • Ladies Night Out: 6-9 p.m. Thursday
  • Gala: 6-11 p.m. Friday
  • Jinglebell Jam: 6-11:30 p.m. Saturday
  • Public Days: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
  • General admission: $6
  • Where: Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, 1500 Broadway
  • For more information: or 253-403-3095

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