PICTURED ABOVE: Junior Grace Laber decorates one of the trees with a paper ornament made weeks prior.// Photo by Shreya Gunukula.
Colorful paper clippings and holiday spirit filled the Director of Service Learning Laura Day’s room early in November as the Community Service Board created themed ornaments for a special cause. Now adorning one of many festive trees scattered throughout Scottish Rite Hospital, these handmade decorations help bring the cheerful atmosphere of the Christmas season to the children receiving care at the hospital.
While the theme of Hockaday’s tree is always new, the Community Service Board’s involvement with Scottish Rite’s holiday tradition is anything but. As Day explained, Hockaday’s participation in the tree decorating is a longstanding tradition of the Board.
“When Scottish Rite came up with the idea 25 years ago, we were doing it,” Day said.
Junior and Community Service Board member Annie Sheeder felt Hockaday’s legacy while decorating their tree at the hospital.
“My favorite moment was having one of the doctors come see us. She said she has two daughters that graduated from Hockaday and she was really excited to see that Hockaday was still involved after over 20 years of this program at Scottish Rite,” she said.
According to Day, the longevity of the project has allowed for its legacy to extend to past graduating members of the board.
“All these people will remember the tree they made,” Day said. “So it is kind of an interesting legacy.”
Scottish Rite’s Special Projects Coordinator Jennifer Brooks values this well-established holiday tradition as part of the hospital’s mission.
“Scottish Rite is all about not looking or feeling or smelling like a hospital. Everything is designed around our kids to make it a fun environment for them, and so it would only make sense that our holiday season was the same way,” she said.
Although the entire board helps to come up with the tree’s theme, this holiday project is traditionally directed by the juniors of the board’s projects committee. This year, juniors Grace Laber and Annie Sheeder took the lead, selecting “Winter Olympics” as the theme for the tree.
After deciding on a theme, Sheeder and Laber began planning the corresponding decorations for the Christmas tree, including ornaments, a garland, a tree skirt and a tree topper. This year, as opposed to Sheeder and Laber crafting these pieces on their own, the entire Community Service Board dedicated one of their meetings to making the ornaments.
“It was a really good experience to all work on it together because everybody had a job and it made it go so much faster,” Sheeder said.
On Nov. 28, Day, Sheeder and Laber, along with other Community Service Board members, made their way to Scottish Rite Hospital for the annual tree-decorating event. Following several speakers and a dinner provided by the hospital, these Hockaday students set to work decorating their assigned tree.
Before heading off to adorn their Winter Olympics themed tree, however, Sheeder, Laber and other members of the Community Service board joined the entire crowd in song.
“When we were all singing in the big room together, you could see everyone with their signs from different organizations and it was so varied. It was a whole Dallas community dedicated to making these kids’ lives special and helping to bring joy to them during the holidays,” Laber said.
Hockaday’s participants are definitely not alone in this tradition. Scottish Rite typically has over 50 Christmas trees dispersed throughout their halls, all festively decorated by schools, companies, volunteer organizations or just families and friends who want to bring joy to the patients.
“Everything that we are about is about making sure that these kids are getting to be kids and seeing a patient’s eyes light up when they turn the corner and see a Christmas tree is incredible,” Brooks said. “It brightens everybody’s holidays, not just the patients but the staff too.”
Head of the projects committee, senior Grace Olson, also admires the community aspect of the event.
“To see that community and people coming together to brighten the holiday season of people who don’t get to go to the Galleria to see the big Christmas tree, it warms your heart,” Olson said.
While a multitude of groups help make Scottish Rite festive for the holidays, Hockaday’s trees always stand out since the Community Service Board is one of the only groups that handcrafts their unique decorations.
Hockaday’s ‘Winter Olympics’ Christmas tree features ornaments in the shape of ski goggles, medals and ice skates, as well as a garland of Olympic rings, a snowy tree skirt and a torch to top it off. Along with the numerous other trees, Hockaday’s tree will remain at Scottish Rite Hospital throughout the holiday season, until Jan. 3, and will continue to bring joy to any child spending the holidays in the hospital.
“I think the most important part is for the kids to see that there are people putting in effort in to brighten their days and it’s special for us too to know that they go around and look at the trees,” Laber said.
Story by Ali Hurst, Copy Editor