Festival of Trees entry honors memory of 3-year-old who died after battle with cancer

Posted at 9:42 PM, Dec 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-01 23:42:23-05

SANDY, Utah -- A Utah family had an emotional experience Thursday as a Christmas tree honoring their 3-year-old son, who died after a battle with cancer, was unveiled at the Festival of Trees.

The festival features nearly 800 trees, and each one has a story to tell.

“And to look now at all these trees, it definitely has a new meaning,” said Tiffany Barnes, mother of Bo Barnes.

The Barnes family was surprised to find their relatives had entered a tree this year in their honor and in remembrance of their sweet boy Bo, who was diagnosed with cancer in November of last year.

“Honestly I wasn't going to come up here this year just because I knew it was going to be hard," Barnes said. "Last year when I came, it was just after Bo had been diagnosed, and it was really hard."

Each of the trees is decorated and later auctioned off. All of the proceeds go to Primary Children's Hospital, which is where Bo received treatment.

“I'm probably biased, but I feel like we've got the two best families in the world, and so super grateful for the tree,” said Clayton Barnes, Bo's father.

London Barnes, Bo's older sister, got emotional as she spoke about the tree.

“I just thought, 'What is this for?' And then when my aunt told me it was for the Festival of Trees, I thought it was going to be so cool to see it," she said. "Because when I first came here I’m like, I don’t know if we’re going to have one here but it's just so cool that we have one here."

The Barnes' extended family decorated and crafted every detail with Bo in mind. Airplanes were one of Bo's favorite things, and they were one of the few things that he would smile for when he was getting treatment.

“He would get so excited and watch them," Tiffany Barnes said. "He'd watch them come in, he was so cute, it would be way above our heads but he would duck down."

Clayton Barnes said the planes on the tree have some extra significance.

“The fact that my uncle built the planes, and the fact that he also built Bo's casket,” he said.

As the family admire the tree, they remember the joy Bo brought to their life. Though Bo lost his fight in January, his family wanted the world to feel the spirit of the joy he brought into the world.

"Festival of Trees can give parents and families a way to heal in service, in giving back to a hospital that gives so much to the families and the children that they take care of,” said Becky Gaedcke, organizer at the Festival of Trees.

Tiffany Barnes said they appreciate the event.

“Unfortunately our outcome wasn't what we hoped, but to know that it can hopefully help somebody else means a lot,” she said.

The Festival of Trees is open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily until Saturday, December 3. Click here for details.