Decorating Festival Tree Becomes Family Tradition for Childhood Cancer Survivor

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DES MOINES, Iowa – The Festival of Trees and Lights has become a tradition for many families. The annual event benefits Blank Children’s Hospital, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

For many families, the festival is a way for them to give back to a program that has helped them. This is the 6th year for the Backes family to decorate a tree. Cari Backes said, “I kind of do all the planning and come up with the vision.”

Her husband Chris Backes said, “I create all the objects we put on and around the tree.”

This year the family’s theme is Disney’s Mickey and Minnie. Their daughter Estella said, “I like it because Mickey is my favorite character. And he brings happiness to me.”

The tree is one of a record 93 trees decorated inside Veteran’s Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center.

Estella is the inspiration. She was diagnosed with B-Cell Leukemia six years ago. “Estella was diagnosed in 2013 right before she turned two. She spent two months in the hospital right at initial diagnosis.”

Child Life Specialists helped Estella during that time. “She spent her birthday there, and Child Life brought in Elmo and Cookie Monster,” said Cari.

Estella is in 3rd Grade now, and she’s doing great. She’s been done with treatment for about four years. She hopes you’ll like their tree. “Because if you see our tree, you could be happy,” she said.

The Festival of Trees and Lights runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. It is 1 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It’s inside the Veteran’s Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center.

You can still sign up to volunteer. Tickets are $5 at the door. Children 2 and younger are free. The event includes many children’s activities, like sock skating, a train ride, and crafts. You can also shop for gift items.


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