A Creative Approach

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Four women stand outside in front of a sign that says “Kennedy Krieger.” Three of them are wearing red T-shirts that say “I love the holidays,” with the Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees logo underneath.

Sylvia Deck (second from left), with (from left to right) Institute staff members Michele Mueller, director of special events; Abby Johnson, event and fundraising specialist; and Kaylee Franc, events coordinator

When Sylvia Deck first visited Kennedy Krieger Institute’s beloved Festival of Trees, in 2017, she knew immediately she wanted to get involved.

Held every year at the Maryland State Fairgrounds on Thanksgiving weekend since 1990, the festival is the largest event of its kind on the East Coast, and the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season for the Baltimore region. It includes hundreds of designer-decorated trees for attendees to purchase, with all proceeds going to Kennedy Krieger.

“We were walking around the trees, and my husband said, ‘You ought to decorate a tree!’” recalls Sylvia, an experienced floral arranger and holiday and Christmas-tree decorator. The next year, she signed up to do just that, leading the decorating team for the tree sponsored by her employer, BFPE International.

Sylvia will never forget decorating her first festival tree. To either side of her were trees being decorated by families of children who’d been patients at the Institute. “Talking with them had such an impact on me. I thought, ‘I need to do everything I can to help Kennedy Krieger.’”

No matter how big or small a contribution is, it’s going to help. I was given a skill, and it would be a shame if I didn’t use it to help others.” – Sylvia Deck

Since its inception, Festival of Trees has raised $26 million, and has decorated 6,887 trees, 4,595 wreaths and 1,736 gingerbread houses.Her talents are as wide-reaching as her dedication is strong. In 2019, she joined the Festival of Trees’ silent auction committee, and has secured more than 100 auction items—from fine wines to weekend getaway packages. When she dines out, she asks restaurant owners if they’d like to contribute a gift certificate. At local fairs, she asks vendors if they’d like to donate an item or two. While asking for donations, she spreads awareness about the Institute.

Sylvia also gives the fees she charges for her personal Christmas decorating services to the Institute. She’s held floral arranging classes to raise funds for Kennedy Krieger, and has donated classes to the auction. Truly, Sylvia gives freely of her time, energy and talents.

“No matter how big or small a contribution is, it’s going to help,” she says. “I was given a skill, and it would be a shame if I didn’t use it to help others.”

Would you like to contribute to the 2023 Festival of Trees silent auction or decorate a tree, wreath or gingerbread house for the festival? Let us know!