November 2020: The Show Must Go On!

Kennedy Krieger’s iconic Festival of Trees event could have been sidelined because of COVID. But, especially this year, families need uplifting entertainment to enjoy together Thanksgiving weekend.

Listen to Linda Schaefer Cameron, Vice President of Philanthropy at Kennedy Krieger, describe the inspiring commitment of those whose support will make this year’s virtual event a reality. 

Linda: During my time at Kennedy Krieger, I’ve learned that inspiration comes in many forms.

I’m inspired every day by the doctors, nurses and clinicians that provide compassionate expert care. I am inspired by the children and families who persevere through treatments in challenging circumstances. And I am inspired by volunteers – individuals that support the mission, lending their time and care for children.

And then there are the businesses that do so much behind the scenes to fund our crucial services.

The Festival of Trees snow globe

Kennedy Krieger’s largest fundraiser each year is an event called Festival of Trees. It’s an iconic event in the area, held each year over Thanksgiving weekend. It is typically held at the Maryland Fairgrounds in Timonium. This event would not be possible if not for incredible sponsor organizations, volunteers and committed staff.

For many years BB&T Bank was the title sponsor for our Festival of Trees event. Their staff volunteered at the event, they contributed a specially decorated tree for sale and in general provided amazing support year round for our mission of helping children, teens and adults with neurological disorders, and their families.

And then two things happened: the COVID pandemic, and we learned that BB&T was merging with SunTrust to become a new organization, Truist.

As an organization committed to children’s and family health, we couldn’t possibly host an in-person event that typically draws over 50,000 people in three days. We now had concerns about whether we could have the event at all, and whether our corporate sponsors would continue to support this event.

We had to approach this holiday tradition with a different outlook.

Institute leadership decided we were going forward with Festival of Trees and would convert it to a virtual event – three days of fun from the safety and comfort of your home!

And then we turned to our friends at Truist - would they still be committed to the Baltimore region? Would the new organization still believe in supporting Kennedy Krieger’s kids and families through our event?

Then we talked to the new team at Truist and their commitment was solidified.

It turns out that many of the team members that we worked with at BB&T were now our contacts at Truist.

Some of these colleagues had been volunteering and attending Festival of Trees with their own families for dozens of years. Their commitment was strong and they had already shared with the newly merged Truist management team how important their involvement with Kennedy Krieger, and our Festival of Trees event, was to them, and to the community.

As we’ve worked together with our friends at Truist over the recent months to put together this year’s remarkable hybrid 2020 Festival of Trees event, we and they have gotten more and more excited for the opportunities the online event has to be enjoyed now by families all over the world.

It is so heartwarming to know that in the midst of all that is happening in the world that there are still people that make up companies that are committed to families in need and to organizations like ours who provide needed comprehensive services—regardless of the uncertainty of a pandemic.

I’m inspired by our friends at Truist, and all of our sponsor organizations, their ongoing commitment to Kennedy Krieger, and the families we serve.