MVH Light-Up Night opens holiday season

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 1:52 a.m.

The young child watching from his hospital room window at the spectacle below captured the eye and heart of Monongahela Valley Hospital CEO Lou Panza.

It caused Panza to recall a scene from the movie “Home Alone 2” in which Kevin walks past a children's hospital and waves to a child patient inside.

“There's nothing worse than being a child in a hospital, but it's worse during the holidays,” Panza said. “When the lights came on, I looked up and saw him jumping up and down.

“I thought, ‘Tonight, we did something good.'”

Monday night, years after that scene, Monongahela Valley Hospital celebrated its 28th annual Light-Up Night in the central plaza of the hospital's campus in Carroll Township.

“It's hard to believe that it's been a year since we all gathered together right here in this plaza to celebrate the start of the holiday season in our Valley,” Panza said shortly before the switch was lifted to light up the plaza.

“But here we are together again as a community — patients watching from the comfort of their rooms, physicians, employees, neighbors as well as our families and guests.”

Panza took the moment to point out the hospital's growth, including its state-of-the-art operating suites, relocated center for wound management and image-guided radiation therapy equipment.

The oversized switch, which actually controlled the lights, was jointly turned on at 7 p.m. by Laura Hermann, 7, daughter of Tracy and Philip Hermann of Monongahela, and Jakob Kenepp, 7, son of Justin and Jaimey Kenepp of Rostraver Township. Tracey Hermann is a billing clerk in the financial/insurance office while Jaimey Kenepp is a medical sonographer.

The event, attended by roughly 1,000 people, also featured the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Frosty the Snowman handed out treats to more than 400 children in attendance and the Razz-ma-Tazz singers from Ringgold High School sang Christmas carols.

The lights again are courtesy of Joseph's Nursery and Garden Center. Crews from the Monessen company spent more than two weeks setting up the lights in anticipation for the big night.

Through early January, the lights will remain on each night from dusk to 11:10 p.m. Panza said employees asked that the lights remain on a little past 11 so that those coming or going at the change of the shift can view them one more time each night.

After the lights went on, Panza took time to reflect on the event that is the hospital's kickoff of the holiday season. As he did, children joyfully mingled among the lighted, standing stagecoach and candles, for example, and posed for holiday photos.

“To kids, a hospital can be a scary place,” Panza said. “For them to see it as a fun place, a community place, that's what's important tonight.

“It's a place that can bring such healing.”

As Panza spoke, he looked up at the windows of the patients' room stories above – usually shuttered at night – which were open with faces watching the scene below.

“The blinds aren't open on any given night,” Panza said. “Look at them tonight.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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