Kahnawake Christmas tree raffle hopes to raise thousands for hospital foundation

Organizers of Karonhiarahstha's Winter Wonderland, in Kahnawake, say it's a community effort that brings in a lot of money for scholarships, CPR training and bereavement services.

Organizers say community effort makes it possible to offer scholarships

This is the fourth edition of the Christmas-themed fundraiser that benefits the Kateri Hospital Foundation. (Submitted by Jerry Lazaris)

People looking for the perfect Christmas tree this weekend may want to head to Kahnawake, for the fourth edition of Karonhiarahstha's Winter Wonderland.

Every year, people in the community come together for the Christmas-themed event that raises money for the Kateri Memorial Foundation.

People buy raffle tickets and enter to win one of 22 beautifully-decorated Christmas trees. Lucky winners go home with the trees and all the gifts underneath.

"It's totally magical," said Lois Montour, executive director of the Kateri Memorial Foundation. "There's something there for everyone."

The gifts are donated by businesses and community members, and can range from furniture and clothing, to electronics and toys.

Last year, 5,000 people came out to see the hall of trees and test their luck in the raffle.

Every tree is decked out and surrounded by gifts. Thousands of hopefuls participate in the raffle each year. (Submitted by Jerry Lazaris)

Montour said this year's edition features 22 decked out trees with a huge variety of themes, sponsored by companies and community members.

"We couldn't do an event like this without the community's help and without the tree sponsors," said Montour. "There's so much volunteer work that goes into this."

In honour of Karonhiarahstha

The event started four years ago, and is named in honour of a four-month-old girl, Karonhiarahstha, who died in 2013.

The girl's family approached the foundation about starting a fundraiser in her name, and the rest is history, said Montour.

All proceeds from the event go to the foundation, most of which are used for student scholarships. (Submitted by Jerry Lazaris)

This year, Karonhiarahstha's 10-year-old brother has sponsored a "Lego tree," featuring toys he donated as part of his birthday celebrations.

"There's so much special care put into these trees," said Montour.

She said all are welcome to attend the event and try for a chance at taking home one of the trees.

People are encouraged to shop around for the one that suits their interests and then cast their raffle tickets accordingly.

For $10, people can buy a sheet of 25 tickets, meaning 25 different chances to win.

The trees and gifts are often themed according to the company or group that sponsors them. (Submitted by Jerry Lazaris)

Montour told CBC's All in a Weekend that it's a time when the community really comes together to support the hospital foundation.

"All the money raised, we restrict it to a fund for scholarships, CPR training, bereavement services and special equipment for the hospital," she said.

As the event grows bigger year after year, she said it's touching to see the outpouring of generosity.

"I must say thank you 500 times every day." 

The event takes place at Kateri Hall in Kahnawake from Dec. 2 to 8, between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.