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Newtown, CT Native Wins Festival of Trees Design Competition

Every year, the St. Francis Foundation's Festival of Trees illuminates downtown Greenville as one of the most beloved Christmas holiday attractions in the area. And each year, there’s a competition to find the best decorated tree and - for Bon Secours St. Francis employees - to create the best label design for the annual Festival of Trees wine sale. 

This year’s winning design for the St. Francis Festival of Trees wine label is simply beautiful and the inspiration behind it is breathtaking. Cheryl Childers is a Licensed Medical Social Worker with Open Arms Hospice at the McCall Hospice House.  You can imagine as a social worker there, she sees a lot of emotions while working with hospice patients and their families.  Grief, sadness, anger and joy…all a part of letting go of someone you love.

But on July 31, 2013, Cheryl Childers experienced her own degrees of emotions when she learned she was this year’s Festival of Trees Wine Label design winner. Childers said, “I am completely speechless, and am truly honored that my artwork was chosen - I had some great competition! I’m very excited to have my artwork represent the Foundation on the wine label.”  

When asked about the inspiration behind such simplistic winter elegance, she shared a piece of her childhood history buried under a world of sadness that very few in this area would understand. She talked about Christmas as a child in a place hardly anyone even knew about until one very dark day.

“I grew up in Newtown, Connecticut – a sleepy little dairy town; never heard of before the tragedy of Dec. 14th, 2012," Cheryl says. "Growing up, there were many nights when it would snow all night, and I remember waking up to a fresh clean blanket of white. The trees were dark and bare contrasted by the stark white of untouched snow. I always wanted to somehow keep the snow pristine. I was thinking back to that peaceful image in my mind when I created this piece.”

The tragedy she’s referring to is, of course, the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last year. Childers says for her, creating art is therapy. It helps her heal and continue the very important work supporting and counseling patients and families at McCall Hospice House.

“When I create artwork, the world around me goes away, and it’s just me and the canvas. I have had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 15, and as a teen I found that when I worked on a piece, I felt no pain. Painting allows me to find freedom in the stress of day to day life. It takes time to create art, but I’ve learned no matter how busy I get, there is great value in taking the time to utilize my creative side. Creativity is essential to me to help me find balance in a tilted world.”

Cheryl Childers works in various types of mediums, but prefers oils the most. Her work will be seen on all of the wine bottles for the 2013 Festival of Trees celebration held every Christmas holiday on display from December 1st through January 1st inside the Hyatt Regency Downtown, the Hampton Inn & Suites RiverPlace and the Courtyard-Greenville Downtown.

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