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A fundraiser and local holiday tradition is being called off by organizers eight months before the event is set to take place, according to CTV News.
The Festival of Trees is Edmonton's first major holiday cancellation. It would have been the 36th year for the foundation.
University Hospital Foundation president and CEO, Dr. Jodi Abbott said, “The most important thing in the world to us is the health and wellbeing of our community, patients, donors and healthcare staff.”
There has been $20 million raised by the Festival of Trees over the course of 35 years. The money goes to the University of Alberta Hospital, the Kaye Edmonton Clinic and the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.
The four-day extravaganza requires the help of over 2,000 volunteers and staff members along with much lead-up planning and expense. The foundation said the decision had to be made now.
“We all need to do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the healthcare system until a vaccine is available, or public health officials say it is safe to come together in larger gatherings and our community is comfortable doing so.”
Physical distancing and other measures in place are likely to be in Alberta for many months as they have been deemed necessary by provincial officials.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, said that the early projections may have led some of the population to believe the number of infections will drop over the summer but that is not necessarily the case.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come, and the relatively low case numbers we are seeing in most of the provinces are the result of our collective efforts and sacrifices,” Hinshaw said, adding that the virus spreads extremely quickly in group settings.
The University Hospital Foundation is still doing what it can to help by providing a mental health line for Albertans with the money raised from past Festival of Trees events. The line is Text4Hope and it can be accessed through texting COVID19HOPE to 393939. Users can also subscribe to daily messages delivered by professionals.
The foundation is also offering to buy equipment used by U of A hospitals and more.
“We sincerely thank the community for the incredible support we’ve received over the years and for your understanding of this difficult decision to move our next Festival of Trees to December 2021,” the foundation said.
“Past donor support has had a major impact on the healthcare provided at the University of Alberta Hospital site, including providing advanced life support equipment and the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. Both may have a significant impact in the current fight against COVID-19.”