Spreading joy is especially important this year for a group of designers who have consistently created one of the top attractions at Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Holiday Festival.
For the past 10 years, SBL Emergency Department Physician Nicky Ottens, DO, and Kim Stout, wife of ER physician Derek Stout, DO, have teamed together to decorate a full-size tree and create an elaborate display for the annual fundraiser. With a mutual love of Christmas and decorating, ER Physician Assistant Aly McCollum, PA-C, was excited to join the creative duo and various other ER staff members three years ago.
“The pandemic has created a new level of stress for all of us. It feels good to do something fun and uplifting while bringing a little stress relief and joy to everyone,” Dr. Ottens said. This year’s display, entitled “Cozy Christmas” is centered around a fireplace, something the ER designers have talked about doing for years. The festive display, complete with a black and white buffalo plaid chair, Christmas tree with coordinating ornaments, farmhouse style wall décor, blankets, baskets, candles and more, sets the tone for a magical holiday celebration.
Since the Holiday Festival is virtual this year, the ER ensemble will be available during the Live Auction Event, which is being held in place of its annual Gala. The event features 12 elite items, which will be available for bid starting at 8 am on Saturday, November 14, with final bids being taken during the Live Auction Event from 6 to 7 pm on Sunday, November 15. Net proceeds from this year’s Holiday Festival will support Sarah Bush Lincoln Children’s Dental Program, which provides dental care at no cost to children who qualify across East Central Illinois.
While safety is a top concern, “we were a little disappointed when we learned that the event was going to be virtual this year because we like to add lots of small touches that you can’t always see in pictures,” Stout said. “We like to add little surprises and knick-knacks here and there that catch people’s eyes. It makes the display more engaging and people will linger a little longer to see it all.”
The ER trio had fun setting up their display. “We look forward to it every year and we’re already talking about what we want to do for the next couple of years,” Dr. Ottens said. “Even though the holidays are going to be a little different this year, it helps to get into the Christmas spirit and still be celebrating in some way.”
It all started when Dr. Ottens got together with Stout after beginning her career as an ER physician 10 years ago. “I knew she liked to decorate and I wanted to bring a little festivity to our department,” Dr. Ottens said. “That first year we did a tree with a fishing theme. One of the nurses made the tree skirt and we used bobbins and fishing lures as ornaments. We had so much fun putting it together and it took off from there.”
“We start with a vision and it always comes together. I enjoy how it looks every year. It’s such a fun event and I’ll miss coming out to it this year,” Stout said.
The designers have fun collecting ornaments and accessories on their annual shopping trip. “We do a lot of research when we buy something large, because we want it to be nice – something that we would want for our own homes,” Stout said. Her husband Derek Stout, DO, often helps by wiring ornaments for the tree or putting the furniture pieces together.
“The purpose is always to raise money for a great cause and give back to the community, but it’s gratifying to know that people enjoy what we do. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment in knowing that our tree sometimes sparks a bidding war,” Dr. Ottens said. The ER display is typically one of the top three earners during the Gala, according to Holiday Festival Coordinator Kim Lockart.
“The ER designers have earned a reputation for creating a gorgeous and over-the-top display and people are always anxious to see what they create each year. There’s also been some friendly competition among designers to see who can create the most elaborate displays,” Lockart said. “While it’s unfortunate that people can’t view it in person this year, I think the online event might give more people a chance to see it and to place bids. I think people will go to the website just to see what they have done and get some fun ideas for their own homes.”
To participate in the Live Auction Event a $50 donation and can be made on the auction website or by calling the SBL Health Foundation at 217 258-2511. For more information about the Holiday Festival, contact Kim Lockart, event coordinator, at 217-258-2511 or go to www.sarahbush/holidayfestival.org.