The Story behind
 Medina's Christmas Tree

Julie Bender wasn’t crazy about the pine tree in her Medina front yard. Overgrown at 20 feet, the Norway Spruce cast a dark shadow through her living room window.

“The first year we lived in our home, my husband strung lights to the very top of the tree,” Julie says,”By the following year, it was too big to decorate.”

In April, 2015, Julie and her husband Dan decided to have the tree removed. Julie called several tree trimming companies and settled on Treemasters of Medina. Treemasters arborist Jeff Bumbulis took a look at the tree and gave the couple an estimate. Then he offered an alternative.

“I told them I could chop down the tree that spring,” says Jeff, “But if they waited until mid-November, I would chop down the tree for free.”

Jeff asked Julie if she would donate the tree to the city. If so, he would donate his services to remove the tree. Julie agreed.

Jeff and certified arborist and Medina parks and recreation director, Jansen Wehrley, are in charge of finding Medina’s Christmas tree. Jeff is also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Medina, a group of local men dedicated to contributing to the community. He decided he would donate his services to chop down the tree on behalf of the Odd Fellows.

That spring, Jeff sheared the tree so it would bulk up over the next seven months. “So it would look more like a Christmas tree,” he says.  The tree came down in mid-November, with the top 13 feet transferred to Medina Square’s gazebo.

After being decorated by Main Street Medina staff members and volunteers in preparation for Candlelight Walk, the Christmas tree was lit by Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell before an estimated crowd of 4000.

On Christmas night, professional photographer Kristy Steeves took a photograph of the tree. “It was overcast that night, but I waited to get the perfect shot. All of a sudden, the clouds cleared and there was the full moon, just behind the gazebo.”

Kristy snapped the picture and posted it on Facebook. The next day, Kristy’s phone started ringing as the photograph went viral. It seemed just about everybody wanted a copy of the photo.

“I decided to donate proceeds from the sale of the photograph to the Medina Raptor Center,” says Kristy. “I wanted to choose a small local charity that really needs the help. I love animals and the Medina Raptor Center is a wonderful place.”

Laura Jordan of Medina Raptor Center is thrilled. “We sure appreciate the help. In 2015 we took in about 600 injured birds. We have three veterinarians who donate their services, plus many volunteers. It’s a wonderful thing to see an injured bird begin to heal and eventually fly back into the wild.”

So, let’s recap — the Benders donated the tree that was chopped down for free by Treemasters on behalf of Medina’s Odd Fellows, who donate their time to worthy causes. The tree was decorated by volunteers and photographed by a professional photographer who is donating the proceeds for the sale of the photo to the Medina Raptor Center. The Medina Raptor Center is manned by a staff of volunteers, including three veterinarians who donate their time to care for injured birds. And that, Medina County, is why you inspire us.

Contact Kristy Steeves at 216.469.9981 or visit KristySteevesPhotography.com  Learn more about the Medina Raptor Center at      MedinaRaptorCenter.org