MATTOON -- For months, Leon Huffmaster has been handcrafting wooden toys and his wife, Karen, has been collecting teddy bears for a special tree the couple is putting together for Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Festival of Trees.
With all the parts assembled and collected, the couple is anxious to bring their creation to life in the Lumpkin Family Center for Health Education at Sarah Bush Lincoln this week. “I dream about the tree every night,” Karen said, “I just want it to be fun.”
The project, titled "Teddy Bears in Toyland," will feature a full-size slim Christmas tree adorned with dozens of teddy bears and other décor. It will be surrounded by an array of handcrafted toys, games, books and puzzles underneath, mostly made by Leon. The handcrafted toys include a wooden rocking horse, two child-size benches which convert into stepping stools, a walnut doll cradle, a colorfully painted wooden tow truck and a Chinese checkers game.
“It’s been a fun project and a great stress reliever,” Leon said. “Whenever I get stressed, I make sawdust.”
Leon has been hooked on woodworking as a hobby ever since he made a deacon’s bench for his daughter as a wedding present in the early 1990s.
“He makes beautiful furniture as well,” his wife added. Last year, Leon built a stunning green dining room buffet that was auctioned during the Festival of Trees Gala.
As a Sarah Bush Lincoln employee, Karen has had a hand in decorating an item for Festival of Trees since its inception 20 years ago, but she is especially excited about this year’s project.