Virginia State Tree adorned with TAO elder artwork in D.C.


Ornaments embellished by local Hampton, VA elders will dazzle President’s Park (White House) in Washington, D.C. as part of the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting display.

Senior Citizens from Coliseum Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center worked with Tidewater Arts Outreach artists to craft ornaments to decorate Virginia’s tree at the White House Ellipse, a property managed National Park Service for the American people.

The handcrafted ornaments will adorn one of 56 trees representing each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia from December 1, 2017 through January 1, 2018 as part of the America Celebrates display.

“Tidewater Arts Outreach is grateful for the opportunity to engage elders in an art project that honors the great Commonwealth of Virginia through the America Celebrates Display in Washington” said founder and executive director MaryAnn Toboz. “The elders we serve may be dependent on others for care, but they are still able to contribute meaningfully to society and they love being part of the bigger picture.” 

Amanda Wallace, an artist with Tidewater Arts Outreach, helped elders use squares of tissue paper and glue to create a stained-glass effect on the ornaments provided. She was aware that the elders designing the ornaments may have limited dexterity and selected a process that was accessible and rewarding for them.

Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, the National Christmas Tree Lighting is one of America’s oldest holiday traditions. The first lighting took place 95 years ago on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse. Since 1923, each succeeding president has carried on the tradition.

For more event information and updates, please visit and follow the National Christmas Tree on Twitter at @TheNationalTree. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #NCTL2017. Through a partnership with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, Hallmark Channel will exclusively broadcast the National Christmas Tree Lighting on December 4, 2017.

About Tidewater Arts Outreach.  Tidewater Arts Outreach (TAO) was founded in 2003 to enhance wellness for people with special needs and circumstances through the healing power of the arts. Through training, advocacy and outreach, TAO ensures community artists, caregivers and volunteers have the tools and resources they need to create a variety of experiential arts programs for elders and others.  Tidewater Arts Outreach and its participating artists have provided more than 2,500 arts-related outreach and education programs, workshops and events since inception.  The programs impact thousands of participants, caregivers, family members, artists and volunteers annually.  Providing opportunities for creative self-expression has been shown to complement clinical care and to have significant intellectual, psychological, physical and emotional benefits.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. The National Park Service has cared for the White House and its grounds since 1933. President’s Park, which includes the Ellipse and Lafayette Park, was officially included in the national park system in 1961.  Visit NPS at:, on Facebook:, Twitter:, and YouTube:

Read the Daily Press Nov. 29 article here.