Last Tuesday, I was informed of an honor bestowed on Darien through the efforts of a local Darien family. Each year, the City of Chicago holds a contest to select a tree to serve as the Chicago Christmas Tree down in Millennium Park. In order to compete for this event, individuals or families in the surrounding Chicagoland area submit their nomination for this distinction, along with a rationale for why their tree should be selected. This year there were over 100 entries, and Efren and Zenaida De La Cruz not only submitted the entry of a beautiful sixty-foot Blue Spruce, they enclosed a personal story that Neal Heitz and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events found heartwarming and sincere.
The De La Cruz family came to the United States from the Philippines, settling in the City of Chicago. Efren and Zenaida were hard workers, and while separated from family, sought to establish their new home here in America. While they had what they considered a good life in Chicago, they decided to relocate their young family here in Darien, and they found our Darien community welcoming, finding support from their new neighbors and the Philippine community. In their application they noted that the City of Chicago had welcomed them and provided a good life in a new country; their donating their Blue Spruce was their way of saying “thank you” to the City of Chicago.
When the news media interviewed the De La Cruz family one could see the true emotion in their faces, as they said goodbye to a tree that had been part of their lives for over thirty years. Efren and Zenaida each mentioned that while it was hard to say goodbye to a tree that they had decorated year after year, they knew that it would bring joy and beauty to all those who traveled to Millennium Park during the holiday season. In many respects, they felt that donating this tree brought them joy and happiness. This was a great experience for me as Mayor, and my pride in my community and its residents had me beaming throughout the event and will have all of us smiling when we travel to the city for the tree lighting in November. Efren and Zenaida De La Cruz reminded me so clearly what Winston Churchill meant when he said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." I hope during this holiday season you each get a chance to visit Millennium Park and admire our “Darien” Christmas Tree.