Entry in Dixie Regional Medical Center’s virtual Jubilee of Trees honors veterans

Purple Heart themed Christmas tree designed for this year's Jubilee of Trees at the Southern Utah Veteran's Home, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Russell Gearhart for Intermountain Health Care, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — “I’ve always felt a deep respect for the people who fought for our country. In my younger years, I went to Girls State and sold poppies to help veterans,” Erienne Luck, designer of the Jubilee of Trees entry themed ‘Our Purple Hearts’ said in a press release. 

Luck’s grandfather, Don Tait, was a staff sergeant in the U. S. Air Force during the Korean War.

“My grandfather was a member of the American Legion and was very patriotic,” Luck said. “He didn’t talk about his service often, but always made sure we appreciated those who served – that we stand up at parades and be respectful. I learned from an early age that our country’s freedom is a gift.”

She said she also believes the idea to create the tree and how it came about was a gift.

“This tree pretty much created itself. Originally a friend asked if I’d help her design a tree, and then circumstances prevented her from going forward. I’d never done a tree before and could have easily just not done it, but this idea kept coming to me. It was like I couldn’t not create a veterans tree.”

Inspiration to theme the tree around Purple Heart Veterans came strongly when Luck was struggling to think through how to choose veterans to feature on the tree and what colors to use.

“I wanted it to be very special,” she said. “And then the color purple came to mind. And Purple Hearts. It felt perfect.”

Erienne Luck, right, shows veteran Joseph McKillop the Purple Heart themed Christmas tree that she designed for this year’s Jubilee of Trees and put up at the Southern Utah Veteran’s Home, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Russell Gearhart for Intermountain Health Care, St. George News

Luck pulled up images of Purple Heart Medals and the tree’s decorative inspiration was complete. 

“Gold, purple hearts and a bit of a cream color would be the color scheme,” she said. “I love amethysts and there is such symbolism between a veteran and the large lava tubes where amethyst crystals grow. On the outside, those tubes don’t look particularly remarkable. But when you open them, they are phenomenal, just like the souls of those amazing people who risked their lives for our country.” 

Luck’s grandfather wasn’t wounded in war, so he didn’t receive a Purple Heart. Although he passed away several years ago, Luck believes he knows and loves what she is doing.

“I felt close to him while I was doing this. He is not on the tree, but he is so happy and pleased. And I had to narrow the veterans to choose from, otherwise, we would have had hundreds of wonderful people and it would have been just too hard to choose.” 

Luck reached out to Jennifer Ferrau at the Southern Utah Veterans Home and said Ferrau was incredibly helpful in providing photographs of the veterans for the tree.

“Jennifer is a veteran herself, so she immediately felt the appreciation and wonder of the project,” Erienne said. “I couldn’t have done it without her. We’re really hoping someone will buy the tree and donate it back to the VA Home. It belongs there. I understand there are already a couple of people interested.”

Bidding on trees and all other Jubilee items will take place virtually this year

“This Jubilee of Trees will be a first of its kind — we are going virtual,” Lisa Brown, the foundation event specialist for the event, said in the release. “In order to support our community staying safe, we created a virtual world filled with online shopping fun, entertainment, bidding excitement and Santa Claus video calls for your children or grandchildren. Funds raised at the Jubilee of Trees will advance local cancer care, including Intermountain Precision Genomics.”

Intermountain Precision Genomics offers a personalized approach to treating not only cancer but other diseases as well. Precision genomics looks at the DNA of an individual’s cancer cells and matches it to targeted cancer-fighting medication. It has been proven to increase the lifespan of late-stage cancer patients at a lower cost than traditional methods.

To support cancer research, the Jubilee of Trees is also educating about the HerediGene: Population Study

“Creating inspiration and hope for a bright future for cancer patients is what the 2020 Jubilee of Trees is all about,” Brown said. “Philanthropy and the Jubilee of Trees have significantly supported local healthcare ever since the event began. We are so grateful for the thousands of volunteers like Erienne Luck, who are the heart of the Jubilee and for many, many others who make donations in support of care at Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center. Thank you!”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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