Festival of Trees returns
BRAIN WAVES JILL CHAPPELL
From a small, intimate gala to the must-attend fundraiser of the season, the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia's Festival of Trees is set to shine brighter than ever in its 30th year. Running Nov. 20 to 27, it is the foundation's first inperson event since March 2020, raising much-needed funds to support the increasing number of Nova Scotians living with mental illness and addiction. “We know the challenges we've all endured over the past 18 months will motivate Nova Scotians to show their support to mental health,” says Starr Cunningham, Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia president and CEO. "We invite mental health supporters, new and old, to join us in the spirit of hope by raising funds to improve access to mental health supports and services throughout our province." One in four Nova Scotians is now living with mental illness and addiction compared to one in five only a year ago. A recent survey by Statistics Canada ties this to effects of the pandemic, such as isolation, job and income loss, housing and food insecurity, and relationship changes. The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia works to address these issues by distributing equitable funding to mental health initiatives throughout the province based on the area of greatest need. Just last month the foundation marked a funding milestone, having awarded a record setting amount per calendar year. “This completed granting round, the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia has now been able to fund more than $2 million in grant requests in 2021 — a record for the foundation,” says Bryan Rice, foundation trustee and grants committee chair. “Our committed donors, volunteers, and staff have made this important milestone possible, and we look forward to continuing to fund important initiatives like the ones recently announced.” The Festival of Trees kicked off with the Advocate Forest of Trees at the Doyle. The week-long holiday tree exhibit is free to the public with donations warmly welcomed. The popular FOT auction, powered by St. John Ambulance, is online for the duration of the event. Supporters can bid on the designer evergreens, local getaways, holiday-themed treats and sweets, wreaths, and much more at fotauction. ca, which started Nov. 20. The Parkland 30th Anniversary Reception welcomes guests to the Halifax Convention Centre Saturday, Nov. 27, at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate the milestone event. At 8 p.m., the RBC Black Tie Gala begins with a threecourse gourmet meal and inspiring success stories from the mental health community. New this year, Steele Stockings will offer attendees the opportunity to unwrap one of 30 stockings, with the chance of taking home the grand prize of $5,000 cash. Following dinner, Rec Room Jams will have supporters rockin' around the dance floor in the new, old-fashioned way. “There has been immense growth in understanding surrounding mental illness and addiction over the past 30 years, and the Festival of Trees has played an integral role,” says Cunningham. “This fundraiser is more than an event. “It's a community of kind, compassionate people who believe in the importance of human connection in treatment and recovery.” Originally inspired by a similar event in Edmonton, Charles Keating launched the Festival of Trees in 1993, raising more than $12,000 for what he often called ‘the forgotten hospital.' Today, the fundraiser continues to support the treatment and recovery of those living with mental illness and addiction by funding community-based supports and services. Over the past three decades, the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia's Festival of Trees has raised more than $6.5 million for innovative mental health programs and services throughout the province. To learn more or to donate, visit mentalhealthns.ca/ festival-of-trees. Jill Chappell is the marketing and communications lead of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. She’s an award-winning broadcaster, entrepreneur, community volunteer and mom to two active and adventurous twin boys.