Marie-Louise Whittington sets her jaw and grasps the metal crossbar above her head. She pants a little with each lat pull, and counts the reps under her breath in Dutch: een, twee, drie, vier....
She could be in any gym, except electrodes peek out from the neckline of her bright yellow shirt, and a nurse across the room monitors her workout.
This is the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, this year’s beneficiary for the annual Festival of Trees.
The holiday tradition will fill the Boise Centre over Thanksgiving week with a forest of more than 80 glittering Christmas trees and more than 250 wreaths, tabletop trees and other holiday decor. The event has raised more than $9 million to improve health care in the community since it began in 1984.
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This year’s opening gala night and the entire Festival of Trees event will seek to raise $400,000 to expand and enhance the rehab center, which currently cares for more than 50 patients a day.
Whittington and the other gym rats here have more incentive than most to get into shape — and stay there with the center’s three-month program of exercise, nutritional counseling and health education.
We really do have a need to expand the current space. It’s far too small for the number of people we’re currently trying to help.
Jennifer Anderson, director of the St. Al’s cardio rehab center
“I always like to talk about the (center’s) No. 1 benefit,” says Jennifer Anderson, a cardiologist and the program’s medical director. “It reduces the risk of death. You can participate in this program and see up to 50 percent reduction in your long-term death risk over time.”
Whittington, 54, a kindergarten aide born in Holland, ended up here after a health scare a few months ago. She felt a strange pain in her chest while waiting for her husband at the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She thought she had to use the bathroom, but it was a false alarm.
Because she’s not a veteran, the VA staff called an ambulance to take her to Saint Al’s. During the transport, she lost consciousness.
She had a cardiac event called a vasospasm that can result in a heart attack. Whittington’s cardiologist sent her to rehab.
Like most patients entering rehab, Whittington was scared to exercise, but being monitored by medical staff makes her feel safe, she says.
Because of that she is more likely to continue with the program, and that’s a good thing, Anderson says.
“The cornerstone of prevention for many diseases, but particularly for cardiovascular disease, is exercise and nutrition,” she says. “Being able to do this expansion, I think, will make it more attractive for folks to participate.”
Saint Alphonsus Festival of Trees
You’ll find decorated trees and other holiday decor, daily visits with Santa, interactive displays and more. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 22 ($2 senior day special admission), and Nov. 24-26; 2 to 9 p.m. Nov. 23, Boise Centre, 850 W. Front St. $7 general, $5 military, $4 seniors and kids 3-12, free for 2 and younger. $30 family pass.
▪ Gala: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 21. $300 per person, advance reservations required.
▪ Fashion show luncheon: 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov.27. $70 general, $125 premiere.
More info: 208-367-8733, SaintAlphonsus.org/festival
Canyon County Festival of Trees
Decorated trees and wreaths, breakfast with Santa, holiday bazaar, entertainment. Benefits Canyon County Meals on Wheels. 1 to 7 p.m. Nov. 24, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 25, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 26, Ford Idaho Center, 16200 Idaho Center Blvd., Nampa. $5 general, $3 seniors and children 12 and younger, $15 family pass.
▪ Paint and Sip: 5:30-9 p.m. Nov. 25. $40.
▪ Gala Dinner and Auction: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 27. $100.
More info: 208-459-0439, CanyonCountyFestivalOfTrees.com