With all these volunteers do, Kinderhaven knew that they couldn’t pick just one Angel as the organization gets ready for its annual Festival of Trees.
Instead, Kinderhaven selected the “Men of the Festival of Trees” as their Angels for 2019 for all they have done and do working behind the scenes for years to make the event happen, Kathy Chambers, Kinderhaven board chair, said in a press release. Those selected are Brandon Bowen, Chris Thompson, Ralph Alderman, Tim Petersen, Laird Parry, Dan Wimberly, Donnie Beck, and Bill Aitken.
• Brandon Bowen
Bowen has been volunteering for Kinderhaven for the past eight years.
“He does so because that is who he is,” said Cham-bers. “Bran-don is extremely passionate about anything benefiting local children.”
Bowen’s duties at Festival of Trees run the gamut from delivering trees and setting them up in the homes of those who purchased them, to laying linens and silverware on the tables.
“He’ll hold doors, sweep, carry heavy items for anyone, wrap trees for delivery, and would leap over tall buildings in a single bound if he were asked,” Chambers said. “He’ll don a Kinderhaven T-shirt and walk in a 4th of July Parade if he’s available.”
In addition, Bowen is often one of the first to arrive when Kinderhaven sponsors free movie events, handing out — and cleaning up — popcorn, she said. “And most importantly he interacts with every child that walks through the Panida doors to ensure that they’re set to have a great time.”
• Chris Thompson
Since his wife, Judy Thompson, has been the Festival of Trees event coordinator for the past 10 years, naturally Chris Thomp-son has been involved from the beginning of her involvement with Kinderhaven, Chambers said.
“He has been invaluable to the success of this event — which makes her look good, too,” she added. “He is the go-to guy for so many things.”
Whether it is layout of the space at the Fairgrounds, setting up the accounting tent, or hanging clip lights, Thompson is there to help. He also can be seen stringing power cords, assisting Kinderhaven’s decorators with the hanging of whatever they need placed, and putting out ”fires,” she said.
“And he is the king of packing and unpacking the Kinderhaven storage unit so it all fits, every time,” added Chambers. “Chris’s problem-solving skills, good humor and patience make him an ideal Festival of Trees Angel.”
• Ralph Alderman
A true “local”, Ralph Alderman graduated from Sandpoint schools and opened Sandpoint Garage doors nearly 30 years ago. Several years ago, a friend, Dan Wimberly, asked Alderman, along with the late Jerry Burns, to help gather trees for the Festival of Trees.
“It has become a tradition for him and Dan ever since,” Cham-bers said.
In addition, Alder-man was a participant in an auction prize at the Festival years ago that included a Harley Davidson motorcycle ride and lunch for several lucky ladies from Sandpoint.
As long as he’s needed, Chambers said Alderman has let them know he will be available to be one of the tree guys.
• Tim Petersen
This will be Tim Petersen’s ninth year volunteering at the Festival of Trees. As with the other Angels, he got signed up for duty by his wife, Margaret Petersen, when she was a member of the Kinderhaven board, Chambers said.
“Despite being ‘voluntold,’ he has willingly been involved from the beginning of the preparations to the delivery of trees the morning after the gala. Petersen’s duties have included putting trees in tree stands on Monday before the event, setting up table and chairs for the luncheon and dinner, and serving champagne during the gala live auction. He’s also been seen packing up silent auction items and delivering to purchasers’ cars both after the luncheon and gala and finally delivering trees on Sunday morning.
“One year, he and Laird (Parry) drove west of Newport to deliver a tree of wine bottles,” Chambers said.
Petersen has also repaired equipment and help stabilize trees as needed. And, as with the other Angels, Chambers said his attitude is “tell me what needs to be done and we will figure out how to do it.”
“It helps that he, too, enjoys problem-solving and helping others,” she added.
• Laird Parry
An engineer from the day he was born, Parry enjoys helping, fixing and building. He has been volunteering since Ruth Wimber-ly signed him up to wrap trees the day after the gala about 12 years ago, Chambers said.
“Since then his involvement has expanded to volunteering starting Monday before the gala,” she said, adding that is when Parry sets tree in tree stands. Later in the week he helps set up tables and chairs, delivers champagne during the gala dinner, delivers silent auction items to purchasers’ cars after the luncheon and gala and, last but not least, delivers trees on Sunday morning.
• Dan Wimberly
Dan Wimberly has been volunteering for the Festival of Trees for over 13 years.
“When he and Ruth, his wife, moved to Sand-point, they asked their neighbor, Barb Merritt, what they could do for Kinderhaven’s Festival of Trees,” said Chambers. “The rest is history. Ruth eventually joined the board and Dan became a permanent volunteer.”
Wimberly and Alderman pick up trees early Monday morning and deliver them to the Festival of Trees venue. But that is only the beginning as Wimberly helps to get the trees in the stands, and sets up tables and chairs. In addition, he tracks live auction bids during the gala, delivers trees the morning after the gala plus many other behind-the-scene activities.
“Wimberly has had some memorable moments delivering trees on precarious, unplowed roads in the country and holding onto decorated trees in the back of an open pickup,” Chambers said “Sometime ask him about having to repair a donated but damaged air hockey table which was stored in a trailer buried in snow.”
In addition, Wimberly has also mentored boys and performed maintenance work at the Kinderhaven facility over the years.
• Donnie Beck
Donnie Beckhas been helping with the Festival of Trees for five years now, alongside his wife Dianna, who serves as treasurer of Kinder-haven.
“He mainly assists the accounting team, doing a little bit of everything including setting up, handing out paddles, being an auction recorder and carrying auction items out for guests,” said Chambers. “He also helps Dianna with the financial reconciliation in the days following Festival of Trees.
“When he sees a need, he fills it with a smile, no questions asked. He simply loves to serve.”
• Bill Aitken
Bill Aitken’s love for helping children goes back to his college days when he began working at the local YMCA, and he later became a camp counselor in Colorado. He has also worked with troubled boys at New Haven Youth and Family Services. While there, Chambers said Aitken began teaching the young teens construction skills. “Watching these boys learn productive skills and seeing the satisfaction on their faces brought much joy to Bill,” she added.
Once Aitken heard the story of the children at Kinderhaven, he and his wife started attending the Festival of Trees. When Bill learned that the Festival of Trees events were moving to the Bonner County Fairgrounds, Chambers said he immediately wanted to see how he could use his expertise of lighting design to help transform that space into an elegant event.
“For Bill, it means the world to be able to give back to the community that has become so special to him and his family,” she added.
The Angels will be honored during this year’s Festival of Trees events, which include Family Night , a holiday luncheon on Friday, and the Grand Gala.
Family Night will be held Thursday, Dec. 5, from 4-6 p.m. at the Bonner County Fairgrounds, where all the trees can be viewed prior to the auction. The event is open to the public and is free of charge. The community is invited to bring their families to the fairgrounds for hot cocoa, visits with Sandpoint and a chance to enjoy the trees.
The Festival of Trees will continue Friday, Dec. 6, with a holiday luncheon from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Guests will be directed to the silent auction, then to the main gala area for lunch and viewing of the trees. Tickets are $50 and table sponsorships are $650 (seats eight people).
The Festival of Trees concludes with the Grand Gala on Saturday, Dec. 7. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. at which time guests will help themselves to some hors d’oevres and a no-host bar as they peruse the silent auction items. Once the silent auction is over, guests will move to the main event for a wonderful dinner catered by Ivano’s Ristorante and a live auction of the fabulous trees and packages.
Tickets are $85 and table sponsorships are $1,400 (seats eight people).
The Festival of Trees is Kinderhaven’s biggest fundraiser, helping the organization continue as a community nonprofit whose mission reads, “Dedicated to supporting children in crisis and giving them back their right to thrive by providing a safe, secure home in which their emotional, physical and mental well-being are protected and enriched.”