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Wrapped in hope: Mary Bridge Festival of Trees

Posted on Nov. 21, 2016 ( comments)
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As Queen of the 2016 Mary Bridge Festival of Trees — the 30th anniversary of the event — Marquelle Parks Butler has a big job, but she's up for the task. Marquelle has a special connection to the event's mission to support patients at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. Her niece Haley is one of those patients. 

At 11pm on May 21, 2015, Marquelle and her husband, P.J., received a life-changing phone call. P.J.'s sister, Kressent Marston, called to tell them that her daughter, Haley, had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

Just a few days prior, Mike and Kressent Marston noticed that Haley's skin color looked a little off. Paired with unusually low energy, they took Haley to the doctor — worried she had the flu or an infection. Mike and Kressent and Haley’s twin sister, Karys, were shocked to learn that Haley had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Kressent recalls receiving the diagnosis.

"We were terrified. In no circumstances did we think that we were going to find out that Haley had cancer."

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The Marstons spent the next three weeks at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital while Haley received aggressive treatment for her leukemia. Marquelle and P.J. were there for the Marstons every step of the way, constantly visiting Haley at Mary Bridge.

While Haley and her family have unpleasant memories of spinal taps, long chemo sessions and the frustration of fluctuating blood cell counts, they also experienced some of the magic of Mary Bridge. Doctors, nurses and child life specialists at Mary Bridge work really hard to protect the fun and innocence of childhood even while kids endure scary illnesses and procedures. Haley remembers making jokes with Dr. Irwin, the extraordinary kindness from caregivers like nurse Quinn, spending time in Piper’s Playhouse with her cousin, and doing art projects with Tryphena and Kristen, two of her favorite child life specialists. 

Haley has been in remission since the summer of 2015. Today, she's a beautiful, healthy, smart and hilarious 5th grader. 

Haley's battle with cancer and her treatment at Mary Bridge made a permanent impact on her family, especially her Aunt Marquelle.

Marquelle is a longtime volunteer for Mary Bridge Children's Festival of Trees, an annual event that kicks off the holiday season with a glittering display of uniquely-themed trees. Festival is the largest fundraising event for Mary Bridge — generating more than $1.5 million each December to support care for kids at Mary Bridge. 

The success of Festival would not be possible without the army of volunteers who help run the event — led by a specially-appointed Festival Queen. Being selected as Queen is a high honor, but it's also an incredible commitment of time and energy. In addition to working full-time and balancing life with kids, Marquelle spends about three hours a day working on Festival. It's all because she wants to do her part to help kids like Haley get the care they need at Mary Bridge. 

Like her royal predecessors, Marquelle was tasked with the responsibility of selecting a theme for the special 30th year of Festival. The theme she selected, Wrapped in Hope, honors Haley and the Marston family and others like them who endure the journey of a sick child. 

"While Haley was sick, we wrapped our family in hope," Marquelle explains. 

With this theme, Marquelle hopes to keep Festival's mission to support kids at Mary Bridge top of mind for the thousands of visitors who walk the halls of the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center this December. 

In addition to her excitement about introducing two new events to the Festival lineup, Breakfast with Santa and Tinsel on the Town.

"I'm most looking forward to celebrating thirty years of Festival and thirty years of making a big impact on care for kids at Mary Bridge."

About The Author

Laura McDonald Laura McDonald

Laura McDonald is manager of grants and strategic communication for the Foundations of MultiCare. She writes stories that celebrate the impact of philanthropic giving. You can reach her at [email protected]

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