The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 17, 2012

A wonderful time

Hundreds of people were walking in a Wonderland of Trees Friday evening at Lewis Automotive for the United Way of Southern West Virgina’s fourth annual fundraiser that garnered approximately $35,000.  

Fully decorated themed trees — everything from princesses to candy and dogs — went to the highest bidders and vied to win the people’s choice award, which went to the Raleigh County Girl Scouts. The “To Get Here There” tree received 1,820 votes — the highest number of votes ever, said United Way Executive Director Margaret O’Neal.

O’Neal explained Wonderland of Trees has continued to bring in more people to get into the holiday spirit each year. There were 54 trees to welcome the holiday season, a band played Christmas music and the public had a chance to grab food and beverages before trying to outbid one another for a favorite tree.

O’Neal said before the auction the event was a chance for the public to get into the holiday spirit. Afterward, she called the event a “great success” and was “thrilled and grateful” to all those who participated Friday night and during the last two weeks the trees were on display.  

She added tree decorators were “on edge” about whose tree might be chosen as the people’s choice winner.

Although Wonderland of Trees gives residents a chance to have some fun, O’Neal’s favorite part of the event is when high bidders donate their tree back to the United Way, which in turn takes the tree to a family who would otherwise not have any Christmas decorations.

O’Neal, with tears in her eyes, said she has helped deliver the trees to families, who are truly appreciative, and called the auction and donations “win-win.”

Kathie Benton, a member of the Women’s Book Club of Glade Springs, helped put together the tree sponsored by The Resort at Glade Springs. Fittingly, the tree was full of small children’s books and even Kindles. Benton said the 50 women in the club spent nearly a year collecting everything for the tree and creating handmade bookmarks; Benton made the tree skirt. This is the first year the club has decorated a tree.

“It sounded like fun and a good thing to do,” Benton said. “We had Christmas cheer throughout the year.”

Benton added that next year’s tree theme is already in the works: golf.

This year was Gina Evans’ second year creating the Lewis Automotive tree, “It’s a Wag, Wag World.” Last year, Evans created the “Grinch” themed tree, which raised $1,750 for the United Way. Evans said it was the tree that went for the highest amount last year, and hoped to top that money with the dog-themed tree this year.

“Everyone has a fun, competitive spirit,” Evans said.

It was Raleigh General Hospital’s Senior Friends’ tree, though, that received the highest bid of the night. The “Young at Heart” tree went for $1,700, O’Neal said.

Summer Hall and her daughters, Hattie Hall, 11, and Sophie Hall, 7, were there to support the “Wag, Wag World” tree — it was created by Summer Hall’s mother and the girls’ grandmother. Of course, the three had already cast several votes for it to win the people’s choice and planned to bid on some trees.

Hattie Hall said she was enjoying seeing “all the creativity” and Sophie Hall said that the trees and her grandmother’s creation were her favorite parts of the night. Summer Hall added that they were also getting ideas for their own tree, if they didn’t end up walking away with one of the pre-decorated trees.

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