Novant Matthews celebrates 11th annual Festival of Trees

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On Thursday, November 21, individuals, families, businesses, churches, community leaders and local organizations gathered at Novant Matthews Medical Center for the annual Festival of Trees Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Every year, the lobby of Matthews Medical Center fills with visitors of all ages to kick off the holiday season with a magical tree lighting.  Now in its 11th year, this highly anticipated event has become a beloved family tradition for many.

Carolina Youth Chorale Dickens Carolers


The Carolina Youth Chorale Dickens Carolers, dressed in period costumes, greeted guests with carols outside the entrances to Matthews Medical Center.  Shortly after 5:30, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived, waving at the gathered crowd as they made their way to the community room.

Santa and Mrs. Claus’ arrival

The official Tree Lighting Ceremony began at 6:00 pm with a welcome from President and COO Roland Bibeau.  “This is a time of joy for us to share the festive season,” said Bibeau, “for everyone to take time away from what their challenges are in life to be with us here tonight.”  Bibeau thanked the many individuals without whom the festival of trees would not be possible: the Festival of Trees Committee, the hospital’s Senior Leaders and Leadership Team, the Plant Engineering Team, Environmental Services, Food Services and the hospital’s many team members and physician partners.

After an invocation and blessing from Chaplain Hunter Roddey and remarks from Matthews Mayor Pro Tem John Higdon and Chief of Staff Dr. Chris Reynolds, Bibeau announced the winners of the departmental wreath contest.  First place went to the Pharmacy Team, second to the Biomed Team and third to the Wellness Center.

Finally, it was time for the highlight of the program that everyone came to see: the lighting of the trees.  This year Bibeau was assisted by a very special pediatric patient, six-year-old “Master Cole Russell.” Cole spent 93 days – from June 26 – September 27 – in Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital for complications from Gastroschisis, a birth defect which resulted in him being born with his stomach outside his body.  As Cole counted down from ten to one, the lobby became a winter wonderland as all fifty trees lit up.

Hemby pediatric patient Cole Russell assisted with the tree lighting

The festivities continued after the trees were lit with more live music, hot cocoa and treats, a visit from the Chick-fil-A cow, and, of course, time for children to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  As has become a tradition at Novant Matthews, Santa stays as long as it takes to see each and every child waiting to visit with him, which is no small job – in 2018 Santa had over 350 children sit on his lap!

Santa and Mrs. Claus saw hundreds of children before the night was over.

This year’s event featured one very important change from years past.  Instead of an auction where donated trees go to the highest bidder, trees will be raffled off, giving everyone the ability to bring home their favorite tree for as little as one $20.00 raffle ticket!  “We wanted to make sure everyone here in our community had an opportunity for the tree that they love,” said Bibeau discussing the new protocol. Raffle tickets are on sale now through December 11; winners will be drawn on December 12.  Novant’s Lobby Team Members are available to answer any questions about the tree raffle.  

100% of the money collected for raffle tickets will be distributed amongst Novant Matthews Medical Center’s not-for-profit partners: COSKids, Matthews Free Medical Clinic, Matthews HELP Center and Levine Senior Center.

Everyone is welcome to visit the hospital and enjoy the creative and original trees this holiday season.  The raffle will close on December 11 with winners drawn on December 12. Some trees will remain up through Christmas, but starting December 16, raffle winners can collect their trees, so visit before December 15 for the best viewing experience.

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011.