Festival of Trees begins Thursday in downtown Sumter courtyard

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With more than 40 trees on display, the annual Tuomey Foundation Festival of Trees and Circle of Lights will kick off from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at La Piazza, the new downtown courtyard on Main Street. Santa Claus will be on hand for photos.

This year's festival has expanded to Main and Liberty streets with a few trees decorating the inside of the hospital and the remainder in storefronts in the downtown area.

"It officially kicks off the holiday season for me," Jeff Faw, executive director of The Tuomey Foundation, said in a news release. "Every tree is completely different. Most are unique to the local industry and decorated by local decorators as well."

Sumter merchants provide space for the trees in their store, and decorators deck the trees. Each tree is sponsored at $1,000 by local businesses and organizations. The Festival of Trees has been a tradition for 16 years and is one of the foundation's largest fundraisers for hospice care. The Foundation seeks to open a center for hospice care within the walls of the hospital and eventually expand to a free-standing building to serve the community's hospice needs. This will allow family members to spend time with their loved ones in a quiet, intimate setting away from the busy hospital floor.

"Currently, our Hospice Department provides care in the home setting and uses the hospital acute care setting and hospital staff when we need to bring patients in for symptom management. This care would be better provided in a hospice house, using specialized hospice staff who are trained in symptom management," Kim Price, who is the regional clinical director of Palmetto Health Hospice, said in the release. According to Price, the department saves all of the money raised from The Festival of Trees for the new addition, except when important patient needs arise.

"We want everyone to know that the Tuomey Foundation provides value to the community in many various ways, and providing such a hospice space would add to that," Faw said.

This season, Sumter businesses donated more than $60,000 to the Festival of Trees.

The Festival of Trees will run until Dec. 31.

The Circle of Lights program memorializes friends and family of those touched by hospice. Lights can be purchased throughout the holiday season in honor of a loved one. Tree lighting opportunities start at $25 for an individual light and go up to $250 for a 25-light strand.

The foundation seeks to engage community partners to enhance health care for those served by Palmetto Health Tuomey. For more information, contact Faw at (803) 774-9498 or by email at Jeffery.Faw@PalmettoHealth.org.