Angels of Christmas

Custom trees and wreaths benefit Dayton Children’s fundrasier

Photo: A Grinch themed tree up for auction at the Sugarplum Festival of Trees

By Lisa Bennett
Prior to 1960, children faced the very real possibility of dying before they reached puberty. Diseases like polio and pertussis claimed the lives of thousands of children. Malnutrition, accidental deaths, and complications from illnesses like the flu were commonplace. In fact, child mortality was so prevalent that post-mortem photos were often the only memento grieving parents had of their beloved child. According to an article written by Tavia Gordon on the mortality of children between 1900 and 1950, the average mortality rate of children in 1900 was 17.2 per 1,000. Thankfully, those numbers declined sharply in the 1950s with the advent of immunizations and increasing knowledge of the importance of good nutrition and proper hygiene. Convalescent hospitals were replaced with medical centers and as child mortality rates dropped, the need for medical hospitals to care for sick children increased. In 1957, Elsie Mead formed the Children’s Hospital Society, a group dedicated to raising money to build a children’s hospital. Their hard work and dedication paid off and in February of 1967, they were able to open The Barney Children’s Hospital on Chapel Street in Dayton. In 1970, the name was changed to The Children’s Medical Center. Today, the facility is known as the Dayton Children’s Hospital. It is home to an incredible Level 2 Pediatric trauma center, with programs including pediatric mental health resources, pediatric sports programs, a comprehensive world-class cancer and blood disorder center and specialized neonatal c ollaborations that serve over 280,000 patients annually. It is also home to one of only 10 accredited pediatric cancer programs in the country!

Ladies to the Rescue!

Part of the reason for its continued growth is the support provided by TWIGs, (Terrific Women in Giving) who tirelessly work hard to raise money to support the hospital. Since its inception in 1965, TWIGs has raised over nine million dollars for the hospital. Currently, the group is wrapping up a $4 million pledge to help the Mills Family Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. “We’ll be presenting our final check in 2018,” says Michelle DiFalco, TWIG Publicity Chair. Over the past 50 years, the group, an auxiliary of Dayton Children’s, has grown to an exciting 20 branches with over 300 members. One of their favorite annual events is the beloved Sugarplum Festival of Trees. This year, the theme for the event is “Golden Christmas Memories” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event.

Visions of Sugarplums

The festival kicks off on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 from 5:30 -6:30 p.m. at the Dayton Masonic Center with a “Golden Hour” of special craft brew and “Golden Surprise” tasting. Golden Hour is followed by the Golden Memories Gala, a fun-filled evening of dinner, cash bar, and music by the Jim Leslie Jazz Quartet. Beautifully decorated trees by local Artists and Businesses will be available to bid on during that time. Both the Golden Hour and Golden Memories Gala are by reservation only.

On Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, the event opens to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with free admission and bidding for the trees continuing throughout the weekend. Visitors will be treated to “The Boutique”, a unique shop of all sorts of hand-crafted gift items made by the wonderful ladies of Twigs. “We have 20 chapters of ladies with over 300 members total, who spend all year crafting items for the Boutique,” Michelle says. For those who love candy and baked goods, there is the Nutcracker Suite, a virtual treasure trove of hand-made cookies, candies and all sorts of delectable Christmas goodies. There is even an opportunity to enter to win a raffle basket.

Beginning at 10 a.m., visitors can enjoy the Holiday Brunch (this is a reservation only event so be sure to register ahead if you are interested in going) that includes brunch, a cash bar, raffles, and music by Pianist Lorelei Albert. At 3 p.m., parents can bring their children to the Prince and Princess Ball (also reservation only). Kids will get to meet Spiderman and Princess Belle with lots of photo opportunities. Dinner, a Sunday bar, and raffle are also part of the ball. Children will also have a chance to shop at the Kid’s Holiday Shopping Corner, where a variety of regular store gift items will be available to purchase for $2.50 each. Kids are welcome to dress up as their favorite Prince or Princess Character. The Festival wraps up on Sunday afternoon after a fabulous “Breakfast with Santa at 9:30 a.m.. Pre-registration is required. Bidding on the trees ends at 3:30 p.m..

Thanks to heroes like Elsie Mead and the amazing women of TWIGs, children in Dayton today have access to superior medical treatment that was unavailable and unheard of a century ago. Our region is truly blessed to be the home of a world-class children’s hospital with programs made possible in part, by selfless volunteers like the women of TWIGS who spend countless hours of their time raising money. So this year, treat yourself and your family to a weekend of fun, festive, holiday events and join the many heroes who help make an enormous difference in the lives of children in the Miami Valley.

The Sugarplum Festival of Trees takes place Nov. 17 – Nov. 19 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Dayton Masonic Center, 525 Riverview Drive in Dayton. For more information or to pre-register for the events, visit:

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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