Alexandra’s Christmas Trees
Charolette Loncar remembers it all too well, though nearly twenty years have passed since the events took place which defined her memories in sorrow. In 1997 her granddaughter Alexandra suffered what first seemed like a minor injury but led to the devastating diagnosis of a rare cancer.
During treatment in Children’s Medical Center in Dallas back in December 1997, Charolette’s daughter wished the rooms where her family spent so much time waiting for good news on Alexandra’s condition could be brightened with holiday cheer. Spending days and nights in critical care units during what is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year” can prove depressing for patients and their loved ones.
In stepped the Plano Garden Club, of which Charolette had been a member since 1982. President Wilma Smith, along with members Denora Dial and Marilyn Winter, took up the challenge of bringing in some much-needed Christmas decorations in the way of miniature evergreen trees adorned with all sorts of ornaments, toys, bows and garland.
Giving the patients the privilege of picking their favorite tree from among the offerings was a particular delight for both givers and receivers. Charolette recalls that her granddaughter Alexandra chose a purple tree that fateful first year, which was to ultimately be her last Christmas.
From humble beginnings in a member’s garage, the Alexandra’s Christmas Trees project grew from producing 24 trees the first year to roughly 130 trees presently, all of which are donated to young oncology patients at both the Dallas and Plano campuses of Children’s Medical Center. Plano Garden Club members are careful to follow hospital safety guidelines when preparing the trees, such as spraying them with fire retardant and securing ornaments with wire or hot glue to each tree so they don’t fall off.
Members of the Plano Garden Club, begun in 1947, gather each year to prepare the mini Christmas trees. The garage was eventually swapped for the Loncar house in Plano. Then a number of members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic community became aware of the project and offered to host the decorating sessions. The garden club members started in a classroom but steadily grew so large that the decorating now takes place in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton gymnasium.
Charolette is repeatedly amazed how fulfilling the Alexandra’s Christmas Trees project has always been both for the donors and the recipients. “Angels watch over us as we decorate every year,” she said, her voice quavering in fond remembrance.
Plano Garden Club is celebrating their 70th year. Find out more about their history and programs at the link below.Plano Garden Club >
More photos of the Alexandra’s Christmas Trees project // click to enlarge: