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Festive Weekend in Cumming with 'Celebration of Lights'

"I know it's the holidays with this event," said local news anchor who emceed annual tree lighting event as thousands converge on the campus of Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

WSB-TV's morning news anchor Fred Blankenship emceed the 23rd annual "Celebration of Lights Christmas Tree Lighting" event at Saturday. 

The tree lighting was the culmination of holiday festivities that included the Jingle Jog 5K road race and on Market Place Boulevard.

Blankenship made his way through the tent which housed the events and had his annual photo taken with hospital volunteer Julie Brennan. 

"I wake up with Fred every morning," said Brennan cheekily.

"I know it's the holidays with this event," said Blankenship.

Preparation for the event began as early as Monday, Nov. 28, according to Freda Hardage, Director of Foundation Services. 

"We had volunteers from our partner schools help set-up, decorate and clean-up. Students came after school and parents were here during school," she explained. It was estimated that somewhere between 200 and 250 volunteers were involved.

Northside Hospital in Atlanta had the first such tree and as the hospital grew and built additional campuses in Alpharetta and Cumming—each facility had its own tree lighting ceremony. 

“Northside Forsyth has one every year,” added Hardage.

According to Lynn Jackson, Hospital Administrator, “people look forward to the lighting of the tree. It’s so beautiful at night.” 

The tree is associated with hope, explained Jackson.

“What really hit me,” shared Jackson, “was the cancer and bone marrow patients [who] spent the prior year inside looking at the tree. There was the hope that ‘I’m going to be outside next year’. That touched my heart.” 

“There hasn’t been someone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way.  Everyone can identify with it," she said.

Dubbed by Jackson as a community event, the tree lighting was preceded by local musical groups and the presentation of checks to the hospital, including one for $4,102.00 from Panera’s. 

“It takes a community to put this together,” added Jackson.

Patient Relations Representative Jeff Hancock echoed the sentiment.

“I love it. It’s a great community event. It’s a great way for the community to come together,” said Hancock.

Ten decorated Christmas trees lined the perimeter of the event tent that were donated by and decorated by hospital auxiliary. The trees will be donated to Supporting Adopting and Foster Families Together (SAFFT)

One of the entertainers was Magic Charley who showed off his magic to Auxiliary representatives Dale Gamble, Gloria Wyatt, and Sybil Bradley. Magic Charley has participated every year, and explained, “why not Northside Hospital? Look what they do for our community?” as his reason why he returns annually.

Everyone was in a festive mood, with the possible exception of 6-month-old Devyn George who was asleep in the arms of her father, Chris. 

As Jackson summed it up, “fireworks in the cold. It’s just fun!”

Proceeds from the sale of lights on the tree and the event will benefit Northside Hospital’s Cancer Care Program.

lez diamond December 12, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Nice one Terry. Lez

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