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Foundation Honors 7-Year-Old By Decorating Tree At 49th Festival Of Trees

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Nixon Strong Foundation is honoring the life of 7-year-old Nixon Whatcott, who died this summer after being diagnosed with bone cancer in 2018, by decorating a tree at the 49th annual Festival of Trees.

Family members said Nixon made a lasting impression on others during his short life.

“He went through chemotherapy, an amputation, radiation; and kept a smile on his face,” said Nixon’s mother, Janessa. “He was a joy.”

Despite the treatment, Nixon’s cancer continued to spread and he died in June.

The Whatcotts knew they then had a choice — to either let their son’s diagnosis paralyze them or turn their pain into purpose.

They decided to start the Nixon Strong Foundation, which brought Nixon joy towards the end of his life.

“He wanted to start giving back to other kids with cancer, so we started the foundation,” Janessa said.

This Christmas, Nixon Strong is spreading their light by decorating a tree at this year’s 49th annual Festival of Trees, which opens on Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

Janessa said helping others helps her feel close to her son.

“Every time we go visit a family and we drop off gifts, that’s when I feel him,” she said. “I feel him so happy and so glad that we are continuing to help other people.”

Behind every tree at the Festival of Trees is a story — a story of loved ones gone too soon, who left lasting impressions on the lives of others.

Each tree is auctioned off and the money raised is donated to Primary Children’s Hospital to help with patient care.

Last year, the event raised $2.8 million. This year, organizers said they need volunteers to help fill four-hour shifts. Those interested can sign up at the Festival of Trees website.

The Whatcotts said this will now be an annual tradition for the Nixon Strong Foundation.

“I think that fighting spirit he has instilled has spread and helped others,” Janessa said.

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