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Local ties to National Christmas Tree

A group of youth from the Children’s Theatre Company and employees of KNOCK, a Minneapolis branding, advertising and design agency, had the honor of designing Minnesota’s state tree ornament for the National Christmas Tree Lighting.

Twenty-five of the Minnesota ornaments hang on the tree and another will decorate the White House Visitor Center Christmas tree. The National Christmas Tree Lighting event was held Dec. 9 in Washington, D.C.

More than 10 young Children’s Theatre actors and 15 KNOCK employees collaborated on the ornament project. They designed and constructed the ornaments by hand. The design is intended to showcase how Minnesotans embrace the outdoors in winter through activities like hockey, sledding, ice fishing and skating.

“This was such a fun opportunity to showcase our creativity and our long-standing partnership with the CTC,” said Lili Hall, CEO and president of KNOCK, in a prepared statement. “We are all honored to have our ornament design as part of this annual American tradition.”

The National Christmas Tree Lighting is one of the country’s oldest holiday traditions. The first event was held in 1923 when President Calvin Collidge lit a Christmas tree for a gathering of 3,000 spectators.


Second Annual Give to the Max Day breaks previous record

More than 42,000 donors donated more than $10 million on Give to the Max Day on Nov. 16 — breaking last year’s fundraising record.

On top of what donors raised, GiveMN gave the top two nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities, as well as the top two nonprofits in Greater Minnesota, two prize grants totaling $30,000. For the Twin Cities, Second Harvest Heartland received first place, receiving a $20,000 grant, and the Animal Humane Society came in second place accepting $10,000.

Throughout Give to the Max Day, an individual donor was randomly chosen every hour to have $1,000 added to their donation.

Give to the Max Day was established to harness the power of as many donors as possible in one day to increase giving to nonprofits throughout the state. All donations are made through, which is a joint venture to help change philanthropy in Minnesota by amplifying contributions and transitioning more of the donation process online.

GiveMN partners with Razoo, a Washington, D.C.-based fundraising platform.

“Give to the Max Day was a huge success and has put GiveMN on the map as a national leader in online giving,” said Razoo CEO J. Sebastian Traeger.


‘Crossing the Barriers’

The autobiography of the late Allan Spear, the noted historian and former Minnesota lawmaker who was one of the first elected officials in the country to come out as openly gay to his constituents, has been published by the University of Minnesota Press.

In “Crossing the Barriers,” Spear reflects on his youth and his realization of being gay. The memoir also takes a look at his time at the University of Minnesota and 28 years with the Minnesota Senate. He was a key lawmaker involved in the passage of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination of LGBT people in housing, education and employment.

His autobiography includes a forward by Congressman Barney Frank and an afterward by John Milton, a former state senator and colleague of Spear.

The Minnesota Historical Society has named Spear one of the 150 Minnesotans who have shaped the state.

— Sarah McKenzie and Vanessa El-Hakeem