Kick off the holiday season in Oak Harbor with these festive fundraisers

Festival of Trees gala weekend important for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Island County

You may have already determined what you’ll be wearing for the highlight of the fall social calendar on Whidbey Island.

The 21st annual Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County’s Festival of Trees gala fundraiser, happening Dec. 6 at the Elks Lodge in Oak Harbor, offers a great opportunity to gather with fellow islanders and check out the tree decorating creativity of local professionals. But it also serves a very important function for this well-respected community organization.

“For most people who attend it’s the kickoff of the Christmas season,” says BBBS board of Director’s Secretary and Festival of Trees’ Chairperson, Karen Cox. “The tickets sell very fast and we end up with a waiting list. The good thing is it raises just over half of our operating budget for the year.”

With a sit-down dinner, about 30 live auction items – including 10 professionally decorated Christmas trees – and more than 60 items up for bidding in the silent auction, it’s a night to remember.

Their stories are powerful

The video presentation where “Littles” and “Bigs” talk about their experiences “is often a tear jerker,” says Tiffany Scribner, the organization’s executive director. “There are so many stories of how powerful this program is and how it has changed people’s lives.”

There’s many scenarios that prompt people to seek a mentor for a young person in their family, Scribner says. “About 60 per cent of our little brothers or sisters are in single-parent or grandparent-led homes. That means 40 per cent are in two-parent homes. It’s not always about not having a parent there and there’s so many ways a mentor can help in their life.”

Newcomers at gala gain good information

While a significant number of attendees are regulars who come every year, Cox says, others may not be as familiar with Big Brothers Big Sisters programs. The gala is not only a fun, formal event, it’s also a good opportunity to educate islanders about the organization, she adds.

A full weekend of events

Following the Friday night gala comes the Teddy Bear and Character Breakfast on Saturday back at the Elks Lodge. Two sittings, at 9 and 10:30 a.m. give you schedule options, but it’s recommended that you buy tickets early to avoid disappointment. Prices are $5 for kids 10-under and $15 for anyone 11-over. You can find them online at bbbsislandcounty.org. Community Day, an open house where people can come in and see the trees and enjoy cookies and coffee, happens from 1-3 p.m. on the Saturday.


For tickets to the gala or more information, call 360-279-0644. For gala sponsorship opportunities, call Cox at 360-969-1560. You can follow what’s new on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County’s Facebook page.

Christmas trees decorated by professionals in the community adorn the room during the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County Festival of Trees gala.

Christmas trees decorated by professionals in the community adorn the room during the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County Festival of Trees gala.