DANVILLE — An annual holiday event that many in the community look forward to has been canceled due to COVID-19.

Organizers have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s OSF Festival of Trees.

The theme this year was to be “Vision of Hope.”

OSF officials instead are planning a one-day event later this year, with details still being finalized, to raise money for local individuals and families who are battling cancer.

OSF HealthCare Sacred Heart Medical Center President Dr. Jared Rogers said the new event will be “short and sweet” and bring people together, celebrating life.

Rogers said they were sad making the decision to cancel the Festival of Trees.

“It wasn’t a foundation or hospital administration decision; it was collaborative,” he said about canceling this year’s Festival of Trees.

In talking to the co-chairs of the committees and other organizers, they reluctantly agreed on the cancellation, Rogers said.

“There were a lot of things that resulted in us seeing the need to cancel it,” he added.

Rogers said those reasons included all the planning involved, which starts after the last one ends, and behind the scenes happenings many people might not realize.

He said all the planning hasn’t taken place as it should have this year, with a kick-off meeting taking place, but then the pandemic hit and everything went quiet.

They were about four months behind schedule, he said.

Another issue is the festival being a fundraiser, and asking people and businesses adversely affected by the pandemic for money.

“We didn’t feel right going and asking individuals and businesses for solicitations...,” Rogers said about everyone trying to get by.

Finally, as OSF is a health care organization, he said they couldn’t in good conscience say that even in November, with health officials nationally talking about another COVID surge possible later in the year, it will be safe for people to come to the festival. The gala and other events at the festival attract large crowds.

“It’s very close contact,” he added about the congregations of attendees.

Since 1997, the festival has raised more than $4.2 million for community outreach programs and special health care initiatives. Last year’s event proceeds were used to purchase a Medivan.

At OSF HealthCare Sacred Heart Medical Center in Danville, the tent outside the emergency department has been removed, which was erected due to COVID-19, and the main hospital entrance is open again.

OSF HealthCare has restarted non-emergent procedures and surgical services which had been paused in response to COVID-19.

“We’ve opened back up for most elective surgeries,” Rogers said. “We’re definitely open for business. People don’t need to be afraid to come to the hospital.”

Mission partners have been following strict guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting.

Rogers said the community has been fortunate to not have had a lot of COVID cases. He said the hospital is a safe place to go to, with hospital staff keeping some patients separated as needed.

He added that OSF appreciates Vermilion County and the surrounding community supporting OSF and the hospital.

“It’s something that is reflective of the community spirit and love and compassion in the community,” he said.

Rogers said it’s much different than in other similar communities.

“It’s unique,” he said.

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