For two decades, a towering Christmas tree ablaze with thousands of lights has served as a living memorial for those whose lives were cut short or affected in some other way.
The Tree of Love, one of McDuffie County's enduring traditions, will be lighted Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. outside the central lobby of the McDuffie Regional Medical Center.
Clay Gunby works to untangle lights while decorating the Tree of Love last week.
Photo by Kristopher Wells
The Tree of Love is in its 22nd year of offering a way to pay tribute to special individuals. Sponsored by the McDuffie Regional Medical Center, the Tree of Love is the biggest fundraiser of the year and honors special individuals while supporting hospital improvements and equipment, said Eva Newsome, director of volunteer services.
For $10 or more, donors may dedicate a light on the Tree of Love in honor or in memory of someone special.
"The lighting of the tree is a big highlight for us here at the hospital -- it's a way of starting our Christmas season," she said.
As a group gathers around the living tree, a doctor accompanied by family traditionally lights the tree. This year, Dr. Julie Hicks, husband Jim and children Perry and Alex, will be performing that honor.
The large star high atop the 20-foot tree will honor Melissa Brooks this year.
Ms. Brooks, who is battling cancer, was selected to perform the lighting by her department, Surgical Services. Surrounded by family, friends and loving colleagues, Ms. Brooks will light the star with the assistance of her nephews, Jonathan and Matthew Rosier; and her niece, Presley Madden.
"It's always very touching when a star is lighted," said Evelyn Richards, president of the Hospital Auxiliary
Following the ceremony, children from Thomson Elementary School will sing, and there will be refreshments and visits with Santa. For a donation of $3 for one picture or $5 for two, children may have their photos taken with Santa. All proceeds will go to the Tree of Love fund.
This year the auxiliary has a goal of raising $5,000.
"Now the hospital, more than ever, needs our help," Ms. Richards said.
"This fundraiser does the hospital so much good."
All proceeds will go back to the hospital for needed items. Last year, funds from the Tree of Love purchased stacking wheelchairs. This year's project has not been finalized.
For more information on how to dedicate a light on the tree, or to contribute to the program, contact Eva Newsome at 597-5408, or direct mail to:
Tree of Love
c/o McDuffie Regional Medical Center
521 Hill Street
Thomson, GA 30824