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Ceremony to celebrate 25th year in Mt. Pleasant

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:15 p.m.
For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Frick Hospital Foundation committee members (from left) Virginia Black, Stan Kapella, Rick Miller and Nancy Albright prepare the Memory Tree at Excela Health Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant for the hundreds of lights and memory tags that will be hung from it at the 25th annual Memory Tree Lighting ceremony to be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Marilyn Forbes | for trib total media

The lighting of the Memory Tree at Excela Health Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant has always been a tradition of remembrance and honor since the annual event's inaugural year in 1987.

This year, the event designed to give people the chance to celebrate the memories of loved ones lost will take on even more significance when its sponsor — the Frick Hospital Foundation — celebrates the event's silver anniversary.

The 25th annual lighting of the tree will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the main lobby of Excela Health Frick Hospital.

“Frick Hospital Foundation has been sponsoring the Memory Tree since becoming a part of the Westmoreland/Frick Hospital Foundation,” said Carole Blair, a member of the Memory Tree committee. “We do our best to strengthen ties between our hospital and the communities we serve by offering a venue which culminates in a touching memorial service.”

The event has grown in participation and interest over the years as it helps to foster bonds between the Church Street facility and the surrounding locale, Blair said.

“Much the reason we continue this event is to build on relationships that have grown over the years,” Blair said. “We are so pleased to welcome our guests as families gather and strangers become friends. Sometimes we don't see each other except from year-to-year, but the relationships remain.”

Those who take part are asked to make a minimum $10 donation with all proceeds going to both Excela HealthFrick and Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg to provide Automated External Defibrillation units in the hospitals and beyond.

In return, the names of the late loved ones they wish to honor are printed on small cards to be hung with a decorative light from the tree.

“Over the years, we've watched folks come in to search for their lights and spend time in contemplation and reverence, and we've shared their joy and their grief,” Blair said.

Blair noted that the event's brochure states the following: “Over the years, hundreds of such lights have adorned our Memory Trees, honoring loved ones or remembering those with us in spirit only.”

“The light-up night is a celebration of life and light ... the holiday season (is) made a bit more meaningful than it might have been without this tangible demonstration of comfort and caring,” Blair said.

The ceremony will include a candlelight procession, speakers and music, Blair said.

It will conclude with the lighting of tree, Blair said.

“This is an event that grows year after year,” said Nancy Albright, another Memory Tree event committee member. “I think that the best part of the event is listening to the people tell us their stories when they come through the door. It's so touching.”

One of the event's founders, the late Beverly Cunningham, will be honored during this year's ceremony.

“Mrs. Cunningham (was) one of the originators of the program many years ago,” Blair said. “We have been in conversation with her family (about) the final plans.”

Everyone from the community is invited to take part in the evening of remembrance and inspiration, officials said.

“This is such a nice community event,” Stan Kapella, another Memory Tree event committee member. “We have all lost loved ones and this event is something that is now personal to all of us.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.