It wasn't a normal sight at the Goldschmidt Cancer Center. On Sunday, the inside was lined with 50 decorated Christmas trees, each 2 feet tall, while an uncharacteristically kind Grinch patrolled the infusion room.
Rather than "staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown," the Grinch (Larry Hall) was looking to put smiles on children's faces in a room at the center primarily used for chemotherapy treatments.
One boy chatted him up, while a younger girl sought safety behind her mother. Nearby, a pair of children were at an arts and crafts station with their mother.
Welcome to the center's second Festival of Trees, a pre-Thanksgiving Christmas fundraiser.
In addition to the 2-foot trees, there were 4-foot and 7-foot trees, including one that seamlessly blended a mannequin into a Christmas tree. A smaller "tree" was made from living peat moss near the entry.
Rose Lineberry visited the event for the first time, saying she was impressed, as she looked at the mannequin/Christmas tree. "I just thought there would be ordinary Christmas trees, and this is far beyond that. She looks like a goddess," Lineberry said.
Another area featured a T-shirt and bake sale and free cookies.
Organizers said the idea was to hold a Christmas-themed event that wouldn't get lost with all the other Christmas events or with deer season.
Even more than raising funds — the event brought in $50,000 last year — the goal of the event is to increase awareness of the center. Since opening in 2008, the center allowed Mid-Missouri cancer patients to stay in the area for treatment, rather than having to travel to bigger cities.
"When we looked at how cancer care was delivered here in the community, people had to go to one place to get their X-rays, another place to see the surgeon, another place to see the chemotherapy doctor, another place to get radiation. And it was just all over the place," Dr. Jay Allen said.
Capital Region Medical Center realized this, and raised funds in the community to start the center, he said.
Area schools were asked to have students decorate the 2-foot Christmas trees. Half of the trees were donated to a nursing home/rehab facility and half were being sold at the event.
"They're definitely made with love in their heart," Allen said.
Rita Kempker, executive director of the Capital Region Medical Foundation, touted Goldschmidt's new Xoft treatment, saying it's the "most awesome piece that we are doing now at the Goldschmidt Cancer Center — the only one in the state of Missouri."
Allen said the treatment is intraoperative radiation therapy for breast cancer that allows patients to have a single treatment — cancer removal and radiation — at the time of surgery. A decade ago, he said, women with breast cancer often had the lump removed, followed by 30 radiation treatments.