Annual Christmas tree sale supports Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is holding its annual Christmas tree sale this weekend. (WTHR photo/Mary Milz)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - It's a holiday tradition that began with a fifth grade science class and grew into a popular fundraiser for the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

On the western edge of the school's 60-acre campus is a tree farm where you'll find more than 1,300 pine and fir trees. Some are barely a foot tall, others as high as nine feet.

Saturday, 300 of those trees, ones you cut down on your own, along with pre-cut trees from northern Indiana, will be available during the school's annual Christmas tree and wreath sale.

"When I drive by, I can't believe we did this and what it's turned into," David Schnieders said.

It started when Schnieders was a fifth grade teacher at the school in the mid-1990s.

"I wanted to get them outside for a science class, so we got some (small) trees from the DNR and put in 100 white pines," he said. "I told them by the time they were seniors they'd be able to sell them and use the money for their class gift, maybe pay for their student prom and that stuff."

Sure enough, that first sale raised $700.

With subsequent classes continuing the tradition, the tree farm grew. Each year, new trees were planted as mature ones were sold.

Schnieders said last year's sale netted $11,000 for the student activity fund.

Even though he retired from teaching eight years ago, Schnieders still oversees the farm with help from volunteers. In the summer, they pull weeds and trim branches and in the fall, they identify trees ready to be sold in December, including Scotch pines, white pines and Cannan firs.

And nothing is wasted. Even the so-called "Charlie Brown trees" are cut down and recycled. The branches are used for wreaths and swag, which are all handmade.

This year the so-called "wreath girls" will make 200, adding donated bows and ornaments.

David's wife Sue, who helps every year, said, "I never had any idea it would snowball into this."

Her friend Diane Hopen has also worked the "wreath line" every year since the first tree sale.

"This is the start of Christmas for me, the best week there is. You have a lot of fun just spreading the spirit of Christmas and helping Blind School kids," Hopen said.

David Schnieders is still amazed.

"It's pretty fun. It's remarkable," he said. "I'm proud of it and the kids who started it should be proud, too."

The tree and wreath sale runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the school's campus at 7725 North College Avenue.