Christmas tree in mom's memory gets $21K at Halifax auction

The extraordinary donation came at the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s annual Festival of Trees.

Donation in memory of Heather Otto astonishes Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia

Heather Otto helped at the Festival of Trees for 18 years. (Courtesy: Phil Otto)

A Christmas tree has fetched $21,000 at an auction of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s annual Festival of Trees.

"There's never been that kind of money on one tree. In fact when we looked back on what the trees went for this year, the next highest tree was $1,200," said Starr Dobson, the president and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.

"When I first heard it, I was like, 'You mean $2,100?' They said, 'No, $21,000.' I was completely blown away."

This special tree was in honour of Heather Otto, a Halifax-area woman who volunteered at the Festival of Trees for 18 years. She died of cancer in February.

The tree will spend Christmas at the Otto family home. (Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia)

"Heather was an extremely caring, passionate, nurturing person," said Phil Otto, her husband. He and their 11-year-old daughter Kristin selected the tree and even started the bidding.

"Kristin chose this tree as the one she wanted for home and was bidding throughout the lunch hour and stopped at $125," he said. "When I asked her later why, she said that was the amount of money she had at home in her sock drawer."

But the bid for the tree kept rising.

The bidding for the tree came down to two parties and quickly got up to $11,000. That's when the two parties put their bids together and bought the tree for $21,000. They then handed it over to Kristin Otto.

The two parties know the family, but did not want their names made public. 

Dobson said the money will be used to support mental health needs across the province.

Otto said he's grateful to the two parties and their significant contribution.

"That $21,000 would not have come in otherwise. That's coming in Heather's memory and is going to impact a lot of people over the next year,” he said.

The entire auction took in about $230,000 for the foundation. 

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