- St. Cloud, Minnesota became the host airport in 2019 thanks to Bill Mavencamp, Jr., St. Cloud Aviation
- Maple Lake (KMGG) was the host airport from 2010-2018 courtesy of Bob & Charlotte Shadduck
- Faribault Area Pilots Assn. hosted the Tree of Hope through 2009
- Duluth-Superior Airport was also a collection point in the past.
How did we start?
Tree of Hope is an all-volunteer program that was started in 1990 by Ray and Celeste Shefland of Bemidji, Minnesota, who noticed there were many children spending time in the hospital over the holidays. Some of them were dealing with major or terminal illnesses and some were recovering from surgery or an accident. Many of them were far from home and missing their families and friends. Often times only one parent was able to stay with the child and families needed to spend their "holiday" money on lodging instead of presents for the children. This is NOT the way for any child to spend their holidays!
Ray and Celeste saw this need and gathered their aviation friends to help provide joy and hope for these children by bringing toys as they gathered to enjoy a potluck dinner at the Nary airport near Bemidji. As pilots flew into the airport, they were greeted by a brightly lit "Tree of Hope" at the end of the runway. This collection of toys has happened every year since, moving eventually to the airports at Faribault and then Maple Lake, plus, for a few years, the Duluth-Superior airport.
In the past, cash donations provided an incubator for a medical helicopter, specialized games for those confined to bed in burn units, and funding for the St. Cloud Wings of Mercy--pilots who fly patients out of state for specialized treatment.