Disney donates holiday magic to Riverside City College’s Photo Club for Festival of Trees

By Saida Maalin

Disney is supporting Riverside City College’s Photo Club by donating “Toy Story 4” toys to help decorate a tree that will be on display at the Riverside Convention Center.

“The Festival of Trees Mistletoe Magic Gala kicks off the festival the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Riverside University Health System Foundation’s annual event to raise funds and bring together the community for Riverside County kids,” said Nicole Orr the Interim Executive Director of RUHS Foundation.

For the past 30 years RUHS has hosted a fundraising gala donating all proceeds to Riverside University Health Child Abuse and Neglect unit in the hospital.

“Funds go to pediatric work at Riverside University Health System Medical Center, including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Child Abuse & Neglect Unit,” Orr said. This year proceeds will continue to help aid, support and raise awareness for the pediatric units.

Nancy Gall, an advisor for RCC’s Photo Club, relayed her concern that the club may not be able to afford real “Toy Story” items to bring the clubs idea to life. A few months later one of Nancy’s relatives connected her with a Disney employee who then offered to support the photo club by donating “Toy Story 4” toys.

“Scott, who apparently is high end international Disney, contacted me via email and said ‘Disney would like to support you with the tree. So, can you meet me at my office in Burbank?’  and that’s what I did” said Gall. She pointed to the display of toys laid out on the table as the photo club members gathered to begin creating paper parachutes that will hold small toy soldiers as part of the display.

The Photo Club’s tree will be about seven feet so that means seven feet of decorations.

“We talked about how we are going to put it on and if it is enough,” said Gall. The club submitted their bid for a Toy Story 4 theme so that they can avoid other participants having the same idea.

The theme and color scheme is chosen by the groups participating and approved by Riverside University Health Volunteers that oversee the event. RUHS volunteers make sure that when participants place their bid in early it can help avoid having similar themed trees being near each other. This year the Photo Club’s theme will be “Toy Story 4” and will have a color scheme of turquoise and red.

The fundraising gala is sold out and those that reserved their seats early paid $150. Every volunteer group decorating a tree is provided one free admission to the fundraiser so Ally Riggs the Interclub Council representative and Secretary will be attending for the Photo Club.

“I will be doing a live stream,” said Riggs who is excited to go with her mother. During a regular Tuesday meeting the club voted and selected Riggs to be the individual that represents the group.

“I enjoy being the Interclub Council representative and Secretary because I have never been in a leadership position,” Riggs said. She has taken multiple roles and is rewarded for her dependability.

“The trees are all sold and sponsored before the gala,” Orr said. “They go to bank lobbies, local libraries and schools, business offices and people’s homes.”

A tree has two sponsors, the first sponsor pays $1000 as a form of community service when purchasing the tree. The second sponsor is a different business that purchases the tree to be delivered and displayed at their business once the event is over.

Several awards are given out to participants in recognition of their creative efforts but since it is a fundraiser no financial incentives will be given out to winners.

“We have awards for best children’s tree, creative tree, traditional tree and Santa’s choice,” said Orr.

“What we are doing is saving lives,” Gall said. “Everyone at this event is devoted to it.” The whole community comes together for a good cause. People from all over gather to view all the beautifully decorated trees.

“RUHS Medical Center is our region’s safety net hospital, meaning we care for everyone regardless of ability to pay,” Orr said. “We have the only PICU in Riverside County, provide forensic interviews and exams for child abuse and neglect for the County, and have the highest level trauma care. Supporting this hospital reaches so many kids in our area.”

There will be 50 trees on display and open to the public until Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m at the Riverside Convention Center.  For the past 9 years the Photo Club has been an ongoing participant in the festival and plans to be a part of the Riverside Festival of Trees for the upcoming years.

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