We want to help put smiles on the faces of children over the holidays. Spending time in the hospital is not the way for any child to spend their holidays. A gift can show the child and their family that there are others that care. Lengthy hospital stays can cause financial constraints for families. Many of the children with major illnesses are transferred to larger hospitals and are farther away from home making it difficult for family to visit.
Tree of Hope, an aviation-based charity, began at Nary, MN in 1991 by Ray and Celeste Shefland. The Sheflands noticed many children spending time in the hospital over the holidays. Some dealing with major or terminal illnesses, some recovering from surgery or an accident. Many far from home and missing their families and friends, often, only one parent can stay with the child and "holiday gift" money is spent on lodging rather than presents.
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.