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Paying It Forward

Nov 21, 2014 10:03AM ● Published by Shawna Meyer

Linda Meier and her family have been decorating Christmas trees for the Festival of Trees for 23 years now. In this picture, Meier poses with the tree she decorated last year.

One South Jordan family has benefitted directly from the annual Festival of Trees. The Meier family has attended the Festival for many years. When their daughter Nicole was 9, she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor in the muscles that are attached to the bones.

Because of her illness, Nicole and her family spent a lot of time in Primary Children’s Hospital. All of them were close to the nurses and doctors that helped her daughter.

“The people at the hospital were the most amazing people. The nurses that she had were like family to us,” Linda Meier, Nicole’s mother, said. “I think that they just became part of our lives . . . Even though what happened there was unpleasant, she didn’t hate going there because the people were so sweet to her and so kind, and they just helped her so much to get through what she had to go through.”

The family went to the Festival of Trees every year. One year, while looking around at the trees, Nicole noticed that some of them had pictures of kids she recognized from the hospital that had passed away.

“We started to explain how the money that they raised when they auction off these trees and things helped the kids at the hospital. That’s when she said, ‘I think we should do a tree. I think we need to help all those sick kids out there.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re one of them.’ But that’s just kind of how she was. She was just always looking out for others,” Meier said.

Unfortunately, Nicole passed away in 1991, the year they were going to decorate a tree to donate.

“I kind of promised her that we would do a tree, so the next year I decided to fulfill that promise to her,” Meier said. “Then I got hooked on it . . . This year will be our 23rd year.”

Meier described the first year of participating as therapeutic for both herself and her family.

“It really helped me that first year to get through it. She died right before Festival of Trees time, and it helped me get through those first couple years of grief, I guess. It really made it easier for me and for my family to know that we were doing something in her honor,” Meier said.

What started as a promise became therapy, but now Meier says she does it because it’s fun.

This year’s tree is going to be called “Lights of Christmas,” and will feature snowmen and Santas holding lanterns. The colors will be traditional reds and greens, with black and white interspersed throughout. Meier says that it takes about seven hours to decorate the tree.

In addition to decorating a tree, Meier also quilts, so each tree comes with a coordinating handmade tree skirt and quilt.

“It’s kind of fun to do that,” Meier said.

When the Festival of Trees included a wreath display about three years ago, Meier also began making a wreath every year.

“I’ve been busy,” Meier said. “Anything that I can donate that will help raise money for the hospital is awesome.”

However, she doesn’t do everything herself.

Meier says that she has neighborhood people help her, as well as family and friends. She has four older sons that mostly live out of state, but they help their mother financially with the tree. She also has men in her neighborhood hand make a wooden stand to go with each quilt she makes.

“I’m just so blessed to have so many people help,” Meier said.

When Nicole was sick, Meier’s husband Jon lost his job, and the family worried about how they would pay their medical bills. Fortunately, because of the amount of fundraising the Festival of Trees does each year, they didn’t have to worry about it.

“I just feel like this is kind of a way to pay back what we were able to get from Primary’s. I know how much of a burden that took off my mind as a parent to not have to worry about the money. If I can do that for another family, then that is the best thing ever,” Meier said. “I didn’t realize how much it really helped until I needed it myself.”

Meier intends to continue participating in the Festival of Trees for many years to come.

“I’m already thinking about next year,” she said.  
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