A worthy ‘challenge’

Dec. 23, 2013 @ 05:25 PM

Since the first week of December, people passing by the broad expanse of park-like space between Blackwell Street and the Durham Performing Arts Center have enjoyed the sight of dozens of brightly decorated Christmas trees.

The Triangle Christmas Tree Challenge has quickly, in its four years, become a Durham tradition.  Along with the holiday-lit Lucky Strike tower at nearby American Tobacco it adds to the festive atmosphere in an increasingly robust downtown.

But the challenge is far more than just a pretty display, the “true holiday destination” as Capitol Broadcasting executive Michael Goodmon aptly put it. It is a benefit for area non-profits, several of which were rewarded Sunday with recognition and cash for their efforts.

In all, 58 non-profit groups participated in this year’s challenge, each decorating a tree. For many non-profits, coming up with a theme for the decorations and pitching in to do the actual installation in early December helps to generate excitement and camaraderie among members.

Moreover, since most trees were decorated to reflect the participating group’s mission, it is a tremendous opportunity for exposure and to spread the organization’s message. “With exposure at the campus’ biggest ever Tower Lighting extravaganza plus television spots and dozens of nonprofit social media pages, the Challenge netted nearly 27,000 votes online and via text message,” an American Tobacco press release Sunday noted. “The TriangleTreeChallenge.com Web site racked up well over a quarter million views.”

The top winner, SPCA of Wake County, also walked away with $5,000 for its efforts. Second-prize winner Coalition to Unchain Dugs won $2,500 and Best Friend Pet Adoption won $1,000 for third place.  Three other groups each won $1,000 for Celebrity Choice Awards.

“These non-profits give so much to our community,” Goodmon said. “We’re proud to help give back. And we’re thrilled to be heading into the campus’ 10th anniversary year with such an outpouring of community support.”

Capitol and American Tobacco -- which sponsor the challenge -- are to be commended for the display’s contribution to the season and the project’s contribution to non-profits and their important work for the community.

There’s still plenty of time to enjoy the groups’ efforts. The trees will be on display until Jan. 3.

And then, they will make one last contribution to non-profit work. Once they are removed, the trees are mulched and the mulch is donated to SEEDS, a Durham, community educational garden that, as the challenge’s website says, "teaches respect for life, for the earth and for each other through gardening and growing food."

Here’s hoping the Triangle Christmas Tree Challenge and its many benefits to Durham continue for many years to come.