Candy Land tree brings joy to the season

Candy Land tree brings joy to the season
Teri Stein

Kaylee Arthurs of New Philadelphia with the Candy Land themed Christmas tree she and her mother, Kat, decorated this year. The two shop year round to find the items they need.

                        

For the past 20 years, Kaylee Arthurs of New Philadelphia has been decorating her Christmas tree with a different theme each year.

“It makes Christmas more fun,” Kaylee said. “Christmas is my favorite holiday.”

Pinterest is a big help in finding ideas.

“I pick out like five different ones, and of those five, she picks out the one that comes to fruition,” said Kat Arthurs, Kaylee’s mother.

Last year when they had narrowed their choices down to two or three, they put the ideas on Facebook and had their friends vote for their favorite design. The Candy Land design was the clear winner.

One of Kaylee’s favorite things about this year’s tree is the flocking that makes the tree look like it has snow on it.

Kat and Kaylee like to have their designs figured out a year in advance. Shopping starts early for the next year so they can get the best deals on the ornaments they need.

“We collect all year long,” Kat Arthurs said. “She’s always with me when I shop for it, and then it takes us a long time to put up just the ornaments. We’ve got about six hours putting these up.”

They never use their ornaments twice but donate them after they’re done.

“It’s like wearing a ball gown: You wear it once,” said Dave Arthurs, Kaylee’s father.

The family does keep a collection of six or seven artificial Christmas trees. They will take turns using the one that best fits the theme that year. There is never a set date to take the tree down, and sometimes they have trees set up all year long.

“We didn’t always do that, but when Kaylee had open heart surgery, she said to us just before she went into surgery, ‘I’ll never see another Christmas again,’” Dave Arthurs said. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. That’s been about 12 years ago.”

Immediately after she left the hospital, the family contacted a Christmas tree farm to provide an early holiday.

“She got out of surgery, and it was in September,” Kat Arthurs said. “We went to Ruetenik Farms, and he was kind enough to let us go out off-season and cut a tree to bring home in September.”

With COVID-19 the rules have changed.

“It’s all a matter of whatever makes her happy. If she wants this tree up until springtime, I don’t care,” Kat Arthurs said.

The tree’s theme can change with the season. Summer decorations have included flip flops, sunglasses, pink flamingos and a big smiley face sun. They even had a black tree with purple lights and orange and black decorations for Halloween. Kaylee also has two small trees in her bedroom.

Some of the other creative tree themes they’ve had over the years include a peacock tree, a dinosaur tree, a humpback whale tree that even had whale-shaped lights and a white woodland creatures tree.

Kaylee’s favorite was last year’s plaid-themed tree, which was decorated with plaid ribbon, red and green bulbs, little ribbons, and pine cones. The yearly gift wrap always matches the tree theme, so last year’s wrapping paper was plaid and this year’s wrapping paper features candy. Even the tree skirts match the theme.

The trees aren’t the only things that have themes to make life more fun. Kaylee has a different Halloween costume that her mother puts together each year. This year Kaylee dressed as Marie Antoinette.

Even their vacations have themes.

“Kay wanted to see a castle and a king, so we took her to Asheville to the Vanderbilt Mansion. We talked to the concierge there, and they actually had one of their employees be the king, so she got to meet King George Vanderbilt,” Kat Arthurs said.

One year Kaylee wanted to eat lobsters on the beach, so the family went to Maine for vacation. Another year she wanted to stay in a log cabin, so they went to Gatlinburg and rented a cabin for a week.

When Kaylee wanted to go to the bottom of America, the family went to Key West. When Kaylee wanted to stay on an island, the family went to Tybee Island. When Kaylee wanted to see wild horses, they went to Chincoteague and Assateague. A vacation with all the lights was spent in Las Vegas.

The Arthurs want to give Kaylee, 32, the best life possible after she was born legally blind and deaf, cognitively impaired, and with other issues including heart problems. She has bravely endured much pain and suffering in her life, but a recent cochlear implant has helped her hearing greatly.

Despite overcoming some difficulties, Kaylee graduated from the Ohio State School for the Blind in Columbus and New Philadelphia High School.

“There’s so much that Kaylee’s not going to be able to do or be part of because of who she is, but whatever we are able to give her and let her do, we do,” Dave Arthurs said.

The Arthurs encourage Kaylee to try new things.

“If she always hears you can’t do that, then she’s going to believe it,” Dave Arthurs said.

Kaylee is very involved in Special Olympics in cheerleading, track, bowling and baseball, and she has tried swimming and basketball over the years too. Outside of sports Kaylee enjoys singing. Her favorite musical artists include Adele, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and the Beatles.

“I love Christmas music,” Kaylee said.

Kaylee has her own flashy style. She enjoys dressing up, wearing boots and having a variety of coats.

“It’s all about the gold,” Kaylee said.

Kaylee works at Advocates for Success in New Philadelphia, a program she looks forward to attending every day.

No article about Kaylee would be complete without mentioning her best friend, Alec Worth of New Philadelphia. The two enjoy spending time together during the day at AFS and going to dances, parties, proms and many other activities.

Kaylee is already considering three ideas for next year’s tree: an upside-down tree that hangs from the ceiling, a nutcracker-themed tree or a pastel rainbow tree. No matter what she chooses, it’s sure to be wonderful.

Most important to Kaylee is to share the joy.

“I want to share the Christmas spirit and the tree with everyone,” Kaylee said.


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