TITLE:  The Christmas Tree Project

AUTHOR:  Positive Network Alliance, Inc.

PUBLISHED:  January 2008

SYNOPSIS:  A tour of the activities provided at the 2007 Christmas Tree Project events.



The North Pole at Bell Canyon Pavilions

In December 2007, the North Pole came to Phoenix for the 21st year.  We held 16 full-day events for impoverished children from Maricopa County.  A total of 7,272 attended from 15 valley schools and actively participated in the 25 daily activities which were facilitated by our 543 volunteers.  The following is a pictorial account of a typical day.


“This is the best field trip I have ever been on!”

At first glance, our Christmas events appear to be huge parties with colorful activities, great entertainment, delicious food, toys, and lots of surprises.  They are fun.  On the surface, that’s exactly how they are supposed to appear.

In reality, however, their primary purpose transcends the superficial to a level much deeper and more meaningful.

The cycle of poverty presents children from achieving their full potential by undermining their own self-concept and ability to strive for their dreams.  Why try if you feel you are expected to be a failure?  The activities are designed to break this pattern by teaching the children skills that will encourage and empower them to strive to do their best throughout their lives.

Our events have all been carefully crafted by our team of counselors and educators to create a nurturing environment that addresses children’s self-concept and broadens their life experiences.  By designing activities firmly based on the principles of the Expressive Therapies, the children are presented with essential life lessons in a format that is fun, challenges the participants, and minimizes cross-language/cultural issues.

All of the activities support our primary mission: to increase the children’s awareness of their own potential, build their confidence, and improve their self-concept.  Everything reflects our core belief that every child is capable of success if they are provided with the support, guidance, and acceptance of the adults around them.

“When our busses arrived, we were greeted by a beautiful hand-painted winter mural.”

“The children became so excited when they saw the painting of Santa riding a unicorn!”

“We knew we were in Phoenix, but the window mural made us feel like it was snowing!”

 “They were excited to hang ornaments they created!”

“The students loved seeing their artwork on the tree!”


The children were asked to make a Christmas ornament and bring it with them to the event.  In this area, they get to hang their ornaments on the tree.

PURPOSE:  This activity gives the children the opportunity to make it a uniquely personal event by placing their name on the Christmas tree.  This is a celebration of children.  It celebrates the individual beauty of each child by allowing them to express who they are through their creative ornament design.


The children write letters to Santa Claus.  When completed, the children decorate the letters and mail them to Santa by private, special delivery.  Next to the mailbox are several animal exhibits hosted by the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center.

PURPOSE:  This activity provides the children with a direct line to Santa.  The wildlife exhibit introduces a variety of indigenous animals, focusing on safety and respect for wildlife.  The segue that transitions the children from the letter writing activity to the wildlife display are live owls, just like the ones that deliver mail for Harry Potter.

“They all liked to see the real animals and feel the feathers!” 


This is a Chroma key green-screen special effects video studio.  The children learn about special effects techniques by appearing on camera and performing a variety of video illusions, from flying to becoming invisible.  A DVD of their performances is recorded.

PURPOSE:  While teaching high-tech video special effects, a subject that will captivate the children, this activity encourages participants to try new things and to look closer at the world around them.  Sometimes things that look real aren’t real at all.

“They loved watching themselves and their friends disappear!”


“Avast, matey!  Thar be pirates here!”  The children help Captain  Dave find his lost treasure, and in the process find some gold doubloons for themselves.  The items are buried in a sandbox that’s shaped like a pirate ship.  The children carefully sift through the sand to locate buried artifacts.  While challenging, the activity is designed so that every child succeeds.

PURPOSE:  This activity encourages the children to explore life to find the hidden treasures it holds.  The lesson is that life’s true treasures usually require hard work.

“Those owls were absolutely beautiful!  We didn’t believe they were real until they moved.”

“They loved watching themselves and their friends disappear on TV.”

“Neat idea!”

“This was an amazing activity!”

“They all gasped when the first student vanished!”

 “Dirt + treasure = fun!”

“They loved digging!  They made it into a competition among each other.”

“WOW!”  I had no idea balloons were this big!  They’re HUGE!”

“Balloons sound like a lion roaring!  It made me hold my ears and laugh!”


The children get to help the balloon crew from the Arizona Balloon Club as they unpack, inflate, and eventually deflate and pack their hot air balloons.  This will be the first time most of our children have ever experienced a balloon.

PURPOSE:  Very few of these children have ever been able to get close to a hot air balloon.  Most have only seen them in pictures.  They often live in areas near airport flight patterns that are typically restricted to balloon flights, so they haven’t even seem them flying high overhead.  This area will give them an experience they will never forget.


Our volunteers provide the guidance and support necessary for the children to produce a beautiful work of art by experiencing an art medium and techniques that are probably new to them.  They are typically amazed at their completed artwork.

PURPOSE:  Art is a tremendously valuable therapeutic tool that promotes healing by utilizing creativity to enhance communication.  This area encourages the children not to fear trying new things, to keep an open mind with new ideas/concepts, and underscores that fact that they are capable of doing much more than they may think.

 “They had a blast doing this!”  “Lots of participation!”


The dean of the University of Tomorrow tells the children that he has reviewed their records and that all of them have been found to be smart enough to be future college graduates.  All of the children receive a diploma and participate in a short celebration.

PURPOSE: This activity encourages the children to complete high school and to continue on to attain a college defree or vocational training.  The best way to break the cycle of poverty is to obtain the education and skills necessary to get a higher education and skills necessary to get a higher paying job.  Often, impoverished children are not aware that this option is open to them.


The MC welcomes the children and invites them to come up on the stage and sing karaoke.  Those who wish to participate can sing individually, in small groups, or as a large group.  The stage has the recording equipment needed to create a professional music video of each performance.

PURPOSE:  This activity helps the children build self-confidence and improve their self-image by providing them with the opportunity to perform in the North Pole Idol competition.  Everyone wins and is appreciated for their efforts.

“They loved seeing themselves on television!”

“They really enjoyed this one!  There were many fun items to choose from and use for their project!”

“They liked being able to make a project to take home!”

Dr. Randy Blecha – The Dean of the University of Tomorrow

“This activity makes them feel grown up!”

“They liked wearing the graduation caps!”

“My students still talk about going to college!”

“Look at me!  I’m singing on TV, just like on American Idol!”

“They all loved singing in front of everyone!”


The “King of I Am,” wearing his crown and royal robes, stands next to a 6-foot tall spinning game wheel.  The wheel is divided into 24 sections, each containing a positive word.  The children are invited to spin the wheel to see what they are.  When the wheel stops, they read aloud what it says.  Then, the entire class repeats the positive statement, confirming the child’s strength and potential.

“Thank you for the lunch!  It was delicious!”

“The students loved bringing food home to their families.”

Courtesy of Waste Not, Bar-S, Holsum Bakery, Mi Ranchito, Phoenix Metro Lions Club, & Encanto Skyline Kiwanis


Staff from the Children’s Museum of Phoenix gives each child a blank CD and colored permanent marking pens.  The children write a wish on the CD and then attach it to the shimmering Wall of Wishes.  The Wall will eventually be moved to the Museum, where it will become a permanent display for the visitors to see.

PURPOSE:  This activity is designed to allow children to identify and express their dreams for the future by functioning as both an individual contributor to the wishing wall project and also as part of the entire production team.

 “I loved the idea that it will be displayed in a museum!”


This is the area where lunch is served.  There are televisions so the children can watch the activities in the North Pole and Cloak of Invisibility areas on closed circuit while they eat.  Lunch is supplemented with treats such as cakes, cookies, pies, donuts, chips, and bread provided by Waste Not.

PURPOSE:  The Café provides a safe place where the children can take a break to eat and socialize, exchanging stories about what they have experienced at the event so far and wonder about what is still ahead of them.  It also allows us to distribute surplus baked goods for the children to bring home.


Each year, we try to arrange for opportunities for the children to experience a variety of animals that they may not have previously encountered.  We have had a petting zoo, pony rides, horses, alpacas, deer, and therapy dogs.  While most of these exhibits are outside, you might find an occasional domestic or wildlife display inside.

PURPOSE:  Urban children have limited exposure to animals, aside from domestic pets.  Contact with animals of these types is not only therapeutic but also helps broaden the experience of the children.


This is the official North Pole Fire Department.  The children are greeted by members of the Phoenix Fire Department and allowed to dress up in child-sized firefighter turnout suits.  The interactive presentation explains the services provided by the fire department, answers the children’s questions, and provides them with valuable safety information.

PURPOSE:  This area provides the fire department with the opportunity to impact a large group of children with potentially life-saving information in a very nurturing environment, where the children are likely to be very receptive to learning new concepts.

 “It was the coolest thing, getting to ride in a fire truck!”

“Most of our students had never seen a horse before.  None had even heard of an alpaca.”

“These horses were wonderful!  Every child had an ear-to-ear smile!”

Icelandic Horses, a rare breed that lives in the Arctic Circle.  Provided by Carla Meeske Person.

Horses provided by Gary Sprague, Arizona’s “Singing Cowboy.”  Alpacas provided by Picket Fence Alpacas.

 “They liked talking to a real live fire fighter and couldn’t wait to color their coloring books!”

“They thought it was funny seeing their friends dressed a fire suit!”

“The students loved riding in a fire truck!  This was probably the activity they loved the most!”


Christmastime is about giving.  The Elf Boutique contains tables piled high with gift items.  The children are invited to search the tables to find presents for their family.

After they have been through the Elf Boutique and have selected gifts for their families, our volunteers assist them as they choose gift wrap and wrap their presents.

PURPOSE:  This area provides the children with the gift of giving, the opportunity for them to select presents for their families.  We believe the ability to give is a primary need, intrinsic to human nature.

 “They were so proud to have a present to take home for someone!”

“Our students don’t usually get to give to their families, so this was nice.”

“They really liked being able to give gifts to their families!”


Our camp staff greets the children and has them sit around our campfire in an area designed to provide the thrill of a real camping experience.  There are trees, shrubs, and a realistic (faux) campfire.  The children are given an animal-print pith helmet to wear while they are in the camp.  The storyteller leads the children reading a book, which is projected on the wall behind the storyteller, so everyone can see the pictures and read along.

PURPOSE:  While enjoying the fun of a campfire, the children assist a storyteller as a book is read aloud, building self-confidence while using their reading skills.

“The story projected on the wall was an awesome visual aid!”  “Fascinated by the fire!”

“We loved the hats!”

“They loved the fake campfire!”

“My kids loved story time!”

Each day, three outstanding students are presented with “Hero Award” trophies.

Provided by the Phoenix Metro Lions Club, Tempe Rio Salado Rotary Club, & Encanto Skyline Kiwanis.


This area provides the gift of memories.  Constraints often prevent families from taking pictures of their children as they grow up.  Unfortunately, time passes quickly and there is no way to replace those lost memories.

Each child is given two copies of the picture of their visit with Santa for their parents.

The Santa visit itself is a nurturing experience designed to heal damaged self-concept by addressing their self-image, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth.

“The pictures were great! Thanks!

“Loved it – very excited!”

“Great organization and great activities for students!”

“We loved it!  Can we come again next year??!!  THANK YOU!!!!!!!!”

“It was great to see such wonderful activities for our kids!  They enjoyed every minute of it!”

“Thank you for your hard work!  This is really a special thing!  We hope to be invited back!”


This area provides the gift of choice.  Often, during times of hardship, children are expected to settle for whatever they are given.  What they want becomes irrelevant.  This activity lets them know that their feelings do matter, that they have choices in life, and helps them develop the thought processes necessary to make good choices.

Each child is allowed to enter the toy area and select whatever toy they would like.  The area is well stocked with an abundance of toys, so the last child has as good a selection to choose from as the first.

“They loved choosing a toy!”


We usually have several different types of amusement rides.  The rides may be mechanical, such as a roller coaster, the Sea Dragon ride, or a safari train or they might be inflatable rides such as bounces, slides, or an obstacle course.  The children may ride as many times as they like.

PURPOSE:  Amusement rides provide a fun way for children to challenge their fears.  They also provide a social experience where the children can share being thrilled with their classmates.  Many of the children have never before been on an amusement ride, so quite often this is a new experience for them.

Provided by Sun Valley Rides and the Mattfeldt family.

 “Most of our kids have never been on an amusement ride, so this experience was awesome!”


Our Gingerbread Man Fence is 192 ft. long and consists of 24 eight ft. sections.  Each section has four gingerbread men holding big red hearts.  The children will find that each section contains a positive affirmation for them.

The fence was built in 2004 by the staff of Alpha Group Administrators.  The base colors were painted by students in the paint shop at Phoenix Job Corps and the sections were decorated by a team of talented volunteer artists from The Tole Shop in Glendale, AZ.


It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child.  It is also true that it takes a child to rally a village, and that’s exactly what happened.  In 2007, our projects involved the efforts of 543 on-site volunteers.  These dedicated individuals and groups were unconditionally there to collect toys and gift items, clean and prepare the facility, haul and set up the equipment, restock the supplies and most of all, serve the 7,272 participants from the 15 schools that attended our 16 full-day events.

The following pages contain just some of those who have helped to produce and make our North Pole events possible.

 Phoenix Metro Lions, Tempe Rio Salado Rotary, Encanto Skyline Kiwanis, Peoria Sunset Lions

Henry Kuspert, John Fitzsimmons, Kelley de Haan, Nick Rodriguez

Clarice Snyder, Dr. Randy Blecha, Barbara Brown, Ron Gresley (The Grinch)

 The Mattfeldt Family, Adobe Mountain Wildlife, Phoenix Fire Department, Alan & Mariann

David Lambert, The Harmons, Karen Pryce, Cinda & Fred Gerhauser

Cathy Savage (Bushwackers), Bobbi de Haan, Gilead Art, Bob Cummings

Jack & Karen Buckles, Carla Meeske Person, Sally Heinrich (ABC), Jimbo and Beppie

Coleen Carpenter, Alex Harris (Starbucks 106), Ron H elvig (Starbucks 5376), Children’s Museum of Phoenix

CFMA – Valley of the Sun, Phoenix Job Corps, The Spacht Family, Paddock Pools

 Lowes Happy Valley, Scottsdale Lions Club, Capital Gateway Kiwanis, Free Arts of Arizona

Oggi’s Pizza, Tony’s Service, Lynn Morrison LLC, John C. Lincoln

Waste Not, APS, Murillo Family-Mi Ranchito, Jessica Koury

Arrowhead Elementary, Hillcrest Middle School, Villa Montessori, Scottsdale Unified School District

Oakwood Elementary, Shadow Mountain DECA, Canyon Springs School, Abraham Lincoln Traditional

Archer & Searfoss, Globe Management Co, Phoenix Metro Lioness Club, The Queen of Clean

 Aaron Rentals, Boy Scout Troop 526, Bar S, FitzMagic,

Dr. & Mrs. Ben Eubank, ASU Rotaract, Alpha Group, Coldsoup

Brophy Key Club, Mark Dittrick, Tragedy Andy, Jerry Sarayder

Gemmy Industries, Cabela Glendale, Whitfill Nurseries

Gary Sprague, Sun Splash Waterworld, 108th Army Band

Ruth Vaes (3M Retiree), Arizona Swing Kids, Holsum Bakery of AZ

Five Star Entertainment


There is something for everyone to do and it’s fun and easy to get involved!

TOYS – We need to collect 10,000 toys.

Would you like to donate toys, purchase toys, or help conduct a toy drive?

GIFTS – We need to collect 10,000 gift items.

Would you like to donate or collect dollar-store gift items for the children to give their parents?

FOOD – Each day we need to feed 500 people.

Would you like to provide a food item or help underwrite the cost of a meal?

VOLUNTEERS – Each day we need 50 volunteers.

Would you, your family, neighbors or company like to volunteer to work at one of our events?

This is a wonderful team-building experience for all those involved.

SPONSORS – We still need sponsors for some of the activity areas.

Would your company, service club, or other organization like to sponsor one of our areas?


Positive Network Alliance, Inc. ~ 3629 W Camino Real, Glendale, AZ 85310 ~

623-326-7951 ~ Fax 623-492-9672 ~

Positive Network Alliance, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation #86-0700750