Ann Koblenzer

Students looking for a unique way to get into the holiday spirit and help a local charity can attend the second annual Houses of Hope Gingerbread House decorating contest Friday through Sunday at the Shriner Center in Cincinnati.

Attendees can view the houses, crafted by area bakers of varying ages and abilities, see the judge’s results and enjoy music and concessions. Proceeds from the event go to the Shriner’s Hospital for children in Cincinnati. The hospital is one of 22 Shriner’s Hospitals internationally and specializes on pediatric care and burns.

“All care is free,” Kelly Morissey, a public relations intern for the hospital said. “Not a single bill is ever sent to families. All is done strictly through donations.”

All the money from the event goes straight back to the children and is usually allocated for needs not regularly budgeted for, like hospital socks or diapers for children, according to Morissey.

“I think everyone, especially those in Cincinnati and the community understand that the Shriner’s cause is something so incredibly unique and all of those who volunteer at the hospital realize how much time and effort is put into these events for the children,” Morissey said. “The children are in such pain and they need this to be uplifted.”

Volunteer drivers will be available to drive the children that are well enough and their families to the event.

“They will get to mingle with other people and mix up their day, which is always nice because they don’t get to do that often,” Morrissey said.

Houses of Hope, the group sponsoring the event, formed last year when the current chairwomen, Nancy Decastro, read an article about a child who had been helped by the hospital, according to committee member Stacy Fehrenbach.

The organization works to create a family holiday event in the region and raise money for the hospital.

“They really treat their patients the right way because they don’t have to go through insurance companies or stay in those guidelines,” Fehrenback said. “They can treat patients with the highest level of care and they need our help. They are a local hospital and it really touches home.”

The event was created when Decastro combined her love of gingerbread houses with her love for the hospital’s mission, according to Fehrenbach.

“The committee was so in love wit the Shriner’s Hosptial and would do anything for it,” Fehrenbach said. “We wanted to do an event where a lot of people could be involved, and House of Hope just spring from it.”

Last year the event was held at the hospital in Glendale, Ohio but this year’s move to the Shriner center will provide more room and make viewing the houses an event with music and food, according to Fehrenbach.

“We wanted to incorporate local groups so they could take part,” Fehrenbach said. “It is such a family event, parents can see their kids performing and see the houses.”

In addition to viewing the houses, attendees can bid of them and the proceeds from the auction will go back to the hospital.

For much information of the event, including performance schedules and judge’s list visit