Coaches often advise team members to keep a stiff upper lip. But for Greg
Halvorsen, a former star quarterback at Rolling Hills High School, with
a long history of coaching area kids in t-ball, little league and Pop
Warner Football, among other sports—there’s one topic for
which he isn’t stoic—Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s
annual Holiday Festival.
Since 1997, the longtime owner of Redondo Van & Storage and his team
of movers have been assisting the hospital with its annual big top event.
“I already have tears in my eyes,”Halvorsen says, his voice
a bit shaky but his insight steady. “It’s the enjoyment of
all the people. Everyone is taking time to give back and they don’t
get paid a dime. Everyone is volunteering because [the event] gets a big
smile from the kids. That’s the real joy.”
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the annual festival, which enters
its 34th year and features 36 custom-decorated holiday trees. Past tree
themes that still have people talking include Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss,
Disney, Gone with the Wind and even Lladró. The often elegantly
detailed and adorned trees are auctioned to raise money for hospital expansion
or new construction.
The trees can garner between $3,000 and $6,000 via silent and live auctions.
A commemorative September 11th tree sold for a whopping $15,000. The 2016
festival raised more than $1.5 million through a combination of ticket
and holiday boutique sales, auctions and an opportunity drawing.
But the trees are just the beginning of Torrance Memorial’s biggest
annual fundraiser. The week-long festival may center on the elaborately
decorated and specially themed trees, but the kid in all of us will enjoy
festivities that include face painting, crafts, clowns, as well as a fashion
show and gala dinner. Plus, who can pass up lunch and a photo opportunity
with Santa? There’s usually a nominal entrance fee and children
5 and under enter for free. There are also days designated especially
for seniors and the disabled.
Volunteers and auction participants include hospital doctors and staff,
area corporations, business owners and philanthropists.
“There’s nobody who’s a bigger elf for the festival than
Greg. This is the type of man who as soon as you say ‘I need …’
he’s there,” insists festival co-chair Carolyn Snyder. And
there’s likely not a better authority on the subject of true Holiday
Festival “elfdom” than Snyder, a West Virginia native who
has been volunteering just one year shy of the festival’s inception.
But the step-by-step involvement and attention to detail required may actually
qualify Halvorsen for the ultimate Christmas nom—that of Saint Nick.
The majority of the 18,000 area residents and community members who enter
the 30,000-square-foot white tent each year are likely unaware of the
extent of Halvorsen’s 20-year labor of love that takes place behind
the scenes. That’s where Halvorsen and his team work their magic.
The festival switched to artificial trees many years ago for health and
safety reasons, namely to avoid problems with allergies. Artificial trees
are also easier to decorate and are more cost-effective, as they can be
recycled. But that hasn’t lightened the load for Halvorsen’s
elves. New trees are ordered every November for the following year and
shipped directly to Halvorsen’s facility. Once there, Halvorsen’s
team builds custom bases for the trees, so they can eventually be displayed
in the big white tent.
The Halvorsen elves also handle the moving of all the festival supplies
to and from the hospital’s warehouse. Following purchase of the
silent and live auction trees during the Holiday Festival, they are transported
once again by Santa and his elves to the residences of the buyers.
“Can you imagine trying to get 9-foot Christmas trees that are fragile
and cost thousands of dollars through someone’s front door, with
the decorations attached?” ponders Halvorsen.
He says it’s a great honor to be involved with the annual event within
a community he’s enjoyed since his youth. He fondly recalls a childhood
spent in the local hills of Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Halvorsen's wife, Laurie Inadomi-Halvorsen has a long-standing career
in real estate. She is director of Commercial and Investment Properties
at Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT’s Palos Verdes/Beach Cities office
and also assists with the marketing of Redondo Van & Storage. While
she leaves most of the heavy lifting related to the annual Holiday Festival
to her husband and his expert elves, she makes it a point to always support
and participate in the event as much as possible, including buying trees
and tables at the fashion show and gala dinner.
The couple is proud their volunteer work has positively influenced their
two sons, Ryan, 24 and Brandon, 19—both of whom have volunteered
and participated with them at the annual event over the years. Ryan decorated
trees at the festival when he was president of Palos Verdes Peninsula
4-H Club and brought in additional club members to help.
“It’s so special to see so many different organizations and
also multiple generations within families from the community coming together
to put the finishing touches on their trees the weekend before the festival
opens to the public,” Laurie says. “We’re very proud
to contribute to what’s undeniably the South Bay’s biggest