Auxiliary’s Lights of Love campaign raises $39,000
Posted: December 3, 2012
The Winchester Star
Winchester — After flipping the switch on the annual Lights of Love trees at Winchester Medical Center Saturday night, founder Margie Sheppard threw her arms in the air and smiled.
It was a moment of triumph to see the program celebrate its 25th year of helping fund hospital projects and the Blue Ridge Hospice, she said.
But it also was a joy to see the more than 3,000 lights on the three large trees, many representing a lost loved one special to someone in the crowd of about 300 people who attended the outdoor ceremony.
“As you see the lights of the tree reflected in your eyes, take this love with you into the community,” said Sheppard, who was chosen as the official tree lighter in honor of the anniversary.
Lights of Love, a project of the WMC Auxiliary, lets people honor and remember a loved one through a light on a tree, which will remain lit through December. People can buy lights for a minimum donation of $5 each.
This year, the program raised $39,000, said Melanie Melester, treasurer. She presented two checks for $19,500 to Robert Mowery, chairman of the Blue Ridge Hospice board, and Tonya Smith, vice president of operations at WMC.
The money given to hospice will go to the patient care fund, which helps people who are unable to pay for services, Mowery said. Cumulatively, Lights of Love has given more than $271,000 to hospice over the years.
“Your donations make it possible that we never turn anyone away,” he said.
The ceremony also featured 15 former tree lighters who attended, a musical performance by children from the Valley Health Child Care Center, and a blessing of the tree by Jeff Fletcher with WMC Pastoral Care.
A crowd braved the frigid night to watch the lighting and remember friends and family members they have lost, said co-chair Karen Dains.
“It is special to those people who have lost loved ones,” she said.
Among the lights Sheppard had on the tree this year was one for her husband, Dr. George Sheppard, who died in January. Many family and friends told her they donated lights in his memory, too.
“My list gets longer and longer each year,” she said.
Becky Saunders came with her family from Reston to see the tree because two lights were donated in honor of her brother-in-law, Shotsie Bayliss of Winchester, who died Aug. 12. She wanted to be there to support her sister, Deb Bayliss, and experience the ceremony.
“It is beautiful and heartfelt,” Saunders said. “My sister is excited because when she looks up in the sky, she always says the brightest star is him.”
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org