Northern Light honors cancer patients, caregivers during Christmas tree lighting

5 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Folks at Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital recently celebrated the memory of those who have passed away from cancer, as well as the courage of survivors and caregivers during their 11th annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Around 40 community members, all of whom have family members and friends who have felt the impact of cancer, gathered at the Pinkham entrance on Friday, Dec. 7, for a short program of Christmas carols and cookies and hot chocolate before shining the Lights of Life tree.

The Lights of Life initiative is part of Northern Light’s A.R. Gould Foundation and raises funds to help patients with costs related to cancer care that insurance does not cover, purchase updated equipment for the Oncology Radiology Department as well as staff trainings. Every holiday season individuals are invited to purchase Christmas lights for the Lights of Life tree in memory of loved ones who have passed or in support of caregivers and family members and friends who are cancer survivors.

This year a total of 80 people were honored with close to 180 lights on the Lights of Life tree, said Holly Wolverton, philanthropy lead for the A.R. Gould Foundation. In past years the sales from Christmas lights have raised $10,000 for the foundation.

“Christmas can be a hard time of year for people who are battling cancer or those who have lost a loved one,” Wolverton said. “The tree lighting is an uplifting way for them to celebrate their loved ones.”

Denise Kingsbury, of Bridgewater, purchased lights for the tree in honor of her husband, Larry Kingsbury, who passed away on Christmas Day in 2014. The Lights of Life tree lighting has become a holiday tradition for her and a way to keep Larry’s memory alive.

“On that Christmas he wasn’t feeling well but he was determined to celebrate with the family just like he always had,” Kingsbury said. “He passed away that evening after everyone had left.”

After Northern Light employees Stephanie Budreau and Joseph Sidiqui led guests through several holiday tunes, president Greg LaFrancois announced that he had purchased the star that sits atop the Lights of Life tree in honor of the oncology staff and family members who serve as caregivers for cancer patients during some of the worst times in their lives.

“The staff here at Northern Light are absolute angels who care deeply about their patients,” LaFrancois said. “When I was a child the most revered spot on our Christmas tree was the top and I cannot imagine a more fitting place to express our gratitude for those angels.”

During the evening the Northern Light staff also presented more than 700 donated toys to United Way of Aroostook, which the nonprofit will distribute to children at Northern Light’s campuses in Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Mars Hill and Caribou.