MIDDLETOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Small trees have come to represent a big message in New Jersey.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reports, the Christmas trees will stay planted forever to honor two girls in Monmouth County.
The tiny tree farm in Middletown has become a home away from home for sisters Natalie, 9, and Hannah, 11, Gorsegner.
The owners invited the girls to choose their own trees and string them with gold lights – the color for childhood cancer awareness.
Natalie is healthy now, but she was diagnosed with high-risk leukemia in 2012.
“Once she was OK, I just kept going with our foundation, Infinite Love for Kids, because it’s just so important that we raise money for research, because they get so little funding,” her mother, Andrea Verdone Gorsegner told Baker.
“I thought, ‘How can this woman who’s go through so much with her daughter and you’re still focusing on helping other people?’” Beverly DeFelice, owner of Cedar Hill Farm and Nursery, said.
When the girls were gifted their “forever trees” four years ago, the Douglas firs were no taller than they were.
“When I walked over to this one, since it was no bigger than me, I thought it was kind of like me,” said Natalie.
Tall and strong now, the small gesture has a big meaning.
“We need a ladder to get the ornaments on there,” Natalie said.
“It just was the most special gift I’d ever been given, and just to be able to see these trees grow and mimic my daughters’ growth, that we’re so fortunate for,” said her mother.
Hannah told Baker she picked the smallest tree because she “thought it needed a little extra love.”
The sisters have a true bond – Hannah even shaved her head in solidarity with her little sis.
“I think she’s one of the reasons that I actually got through it, because she comforted me,” Natalie added
The girls hang angels with pictures of their friends who have succumbed to the disease and others celebrating the lives of those who beat the odds.
The trees were lit through all of September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and will be fully decorated starting this Saturday. There’s a donation box for the foundation at the farm, or you can donate online.