WINCHESTER — More than a hundred people gathered outside Winchester Medical Center on Sunday night to remember loved ones who have died or to honor someone special.

The gathering was a part of the WMC Auxiliary’s 32nd annual Lights of Love tree-lighting ceremony. The special lights illuminate four trees on the WMC campus — three near an Amherst Street entrance and one in a courtyard.

For a $5 donation, people could purchase a light. More than 3,000 lights were illuminated Sunday night.

This year’s Lights of Love raised $44,000 for the WMC Cancer Center and Blue Ridge Hospice. The same amount was raised last year. Each of the organizations received a $22,000 check at the ceremony.

“There are tears in the hearts of some us here this evening as we remember dear ones who are no longer with us,” retired WMC chaplain and Auxiliary volunteer Peter Ford said before the lights were turned on. “There is joy in the hearts of others of us, and we are mindful of the way that a special person or persons continue to enrich and bring happiness to our life.”

He added that, “Each one of those hundreds of small lights will blend with each other and will become one great light that will fill the sky above us and will fill the heart of each one of us with one great light of love.”

Linda Conrad, a former Department of Defense employee who has volunteered 19,000 hours over 17 years at WMC, had the honor of lighting the trees.

WMC Auxiliary President Henry Ticknor said he hopes the event is a good start to the holiday season.

“This evening we come together from many different places, but we come for one purpose and that is to remember those who lift up our lives and brightened our days who are no longer with us,” he said.

After the ceremony, Elizabeth Savage, of Lake Frederick, took a photo next to one of the trees as she held up two lights. For the past 10 years, Savage, who works for WMC, has purchased lights in memory of her father and brother, who have passed away.

Savage plans to send the photo to her mother in New York. Her mother keeps a card commemorating the donation next to her father’s urn at home. Lights of Love is “wonderful,” Savage added.

“What’s interesting is that someone who lives far away in New York is celebrating this as well,” she said, referring to her mom. “This tradition is spreading beyond the community and touching lives outside.”

— Contact Anna Merod at amerod@winchesterstar.com

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