CAROL STREAM – Brittany Valene died in February 2005, just days before her ninth birthday, of Long QT Syndrome, a congenital heart condition that her family and doctors thought was being controlled by medication.
Brittany’s passing weighed heavy on the hearts of many, including her neighbors in Kingsport Ridge.
Wanting to keep the girl’s memory alive, Kingsport Ridge resident Jim Guthrie and several other community members decided to honor her by placing Christmas trees in their front yards.
“She loved Christmas,” said Ruth Groh, of Kingsport Ridge. “We used white lights to remember Brittany, as she was our angel, shining down on us.”
That first year, 22 trees were placed on neighborhood lawns.
It was the beginning of the Brittany’s Trees fundraiser, which sells Christmas trees to benefit the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome Foundation.
“Everyone on Matthew Lane got a Christmas tree,” said Groh, who volunteers for Brittany’s Trees. “It’s just absolutely amazing when you drive down a street and see the lights.”
Nine years later, her legacy continues.
“It’s pretty amazing to see how it all comes to together,” said Brittany’s dad, Tony Valene.
Last year, nearly 150 volunteers with 22 trailers delivered Brittany’s Trees to Carol Stream neighborhoods and other towns within a 30 mile radius, Groh said. About 1,250 6-foot Colorado blue spruce trees, with 300 white lights on each, were delivered.
The 2012 fundraiser generated $20,000 for the SADS Foundation.
This year, 1,500 trees have been ordered from a Michigan tree farm with a hope of raising $30,000.
“Our goal is to get everybody in Carol Stream to get a tree,” Groh said.
Volunteers gather on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the Kingsport Ridge neighborhood comes alive.
The morning begins with family and friends surrounded by hundreds of trees.
Volunteers warm up with hot chocolate and coordinate the day’s festivities. Then they split up into teams, load the trailers and head out to deliver the trees, which are staked out and trimmed with lights at each location.
Orders are now being accepted for delivery the weekend of Nov. 30. The cost is $40 per tree. To order, visit www.brittanys-trees.com or mail a check to “Brittany’s Trees” to Dave Groh, 643 Matthew Lane, Carol Stream, IL 60188.
The 2013 Brittany’s Trees T-shirt is available for $10 online.
People interested in helping with delivery, set-up and decorating should email email@example.com.
Volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 30 at 648 Matthew Lane, Carol Stream.