The Star-Herald

For Caribou student, best gift is giving back

CARIBOU and PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Isabella Albert, a second-grade student at Teague Park School in Caribou, is giving back in a big way.  Isabella and her mom, Cindy Albert, came up with a project that will ultimately help in the delivery of quality, comprehensive dental care for thousands of Aroostook County children at St Apollonia Dental Clinic.

“This year, instead of presents, Isabella wanted to ask for Legos to donate to the Festival of Trees,” said Cindy Albert.

When Clinic Director Dr. Norma Desjardins heard about Isabella’s idea, she asked if she’d like to co-sponsor the clinic’s tree entry this year. Working together, Isabella, her mom and the clinic staff came up with their theme:  Building Our Community, One Block at a Time. They are crafting handmade ornaments, and gifts under the tree will include a LEGO table/storage set as well as LEGO sets depicting various community services.

The Festival of Trees takes place at the Northern Maine Community College gym Friday, Nov. 30, from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 2, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  All trees will be raffled off beginning at 2 p.m. Dec. 2.

The Friends of St Apollonia Festival of Trees committee has partnered with NMCC to host the event for the past four years, since the festival outgrew its first venue at the Knights of Columbus Hall.  Since that time the festival has grown from its initial 24 trees to over 60 trees already registered for this year’s fifth annual event. The Gingerbread Cafe will be open, serving meals and snacks.

The Festival of Trees is St. Apollonia Dental Clinic’s major annual fundraiser.  It has become a popular community event featuring a winter wonderland of decorated trees all set up for a weekend of viewing and raffle ticket sales.  Local businesses, organizations, individuals and families sponsor trees with creative decoration and gift ideas. Although it’s not a requirement, many of the tree entries have themes.  All trees and gift items go home at the end of the weekend with thrilled raffle winners.

As many of her friends may remember, Isabella Albert won the Frozen Birthday Party-themed tree at the first festival in 2014.  The tree included handmade ornaments, gift items and all the necessary supplies for hosting a Frozen birthday party. Soon after winning, she hosted a party and invited friends to join her.

The clinic, a 501c3 nonprofit private foundation established in 2011,  provides dental services and preventive oral health education for Aroostook County children. Without the Festival of Trees fundraiser and grants, it would not be possible to provide these much-needed oral health services, Desjardin said.

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