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Honoring friends with a little light

SHERIDAN — Years ago, when her mother passed away, she bought a white light in her honor as part of the Trees of Love project at Sheridan Memorial Hospital. That light shone with hundreds of other lights on the trees in front of the hospital, a symbolic display of love for those who were no longer alive to celebrate the Christmas season.

A few years later, she added a light for her husband’s mother. And within time, Barbara Sare began to buy white lights to honor her husband and dear friends who had died.

“It’s a good feeling,” Sare said. “It makes you think about it and be able to honor them…although they don’t know that, I suppose.”

Her voice fades a bit.

But it’s not a sad experience, she said.

“With me, it’s more of a joyful time. You go through the sadness other times. That, to me, is just a joyful, honoring thing to do,” Sare said. “When you drive by, you know that you have had lights put on those trees along with many other people.”

The Trees of Love project at Sheridan Memorial Hospital is celebrating its 25th year this year, Volunteer Coordinator Patty Forister said. It was started in 1988 by the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary as a way to raise funds for the hospital, particularly under the premise that those funds would promote the comfort and welfare of patients, Forister said.

The auxiliary also runs the hospital gift shop, and all proceeds from sales in the gift shop are combined with funds raised by the Trees of Love project for a yearly gift that often totals more than $30,000, Forister said.

Each year, the Hospital Foundation puts together a “wish list” from hospital staff for three or four items that are needed but didn’t make the budget. The auxiliary receives the list in December, votes on what they wish to purchase in January and presents the gift in February, Forister said.

In the past, the auxiliary has purchased recliners for the Welch Cancer Center and two “panda warmers” for Women’s Health, which are an expensive piece of equipment that weigh newborn babies, keep them warm and provide instant access to resuscitation technologies if needed. Funds have also been given to capital campaigns to help complete the Welch Cancer Center, the cardiac catheter lab, the emergency department and more.

Lights can be purchased in three colors for the Trees of Love project: white to honor someone who is deceased, green to honor a living relative or friend and red to honor a child or pet.

Lights can be dedicated for a donation of $5 or more. The auxiliary will send a card to the person being honored, or their family, if deceased. Honorees’ names are also inscribed in a Book of Love that will be on display through the holiday season.

“We’ve been doing Trees of Love for several years. We just started it, and it just kind of blossomed,” Auxiliary Spokeswoman Joan Kalasinsky said. “Even though you aren’t really buying a single bulb on a tree, you are buying the significance of what it will stand for. It is really nice.”

The Memorial Hospital Auxiliary will host an open house for the Trees of Love project from 4-5 p.m. Sunday in the front lobby at Sheridan Memorial Hospital. The event will feature Christmas refreshments and entertainment. The large trees in front of the hospital on Fifth Street will be lit at 4:45 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Lights can be purchased to honor loved ones through December for $5 or more per light. Forms are available at the hospital’s front desk, the YMCA, several area banks and beauty salons or online at: www.sheridanhospital.org.

 

If you go…

The lighting of the trees for Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Christmas Trees of Love will include refreshments and live Christmas music. The Book of Love will be available to view the names of honorees.

When: 4-5 p.m. Sunday. Trees will be lit at 4:45 p.m.

Where: Front lobby of Sheridan Memorial Hospital, 1401 W. Fifth St.

Information: Call Joan Kalasinsky at 672-8982 or visit www.sheridanhospital.org.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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