By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – Every year during the Christmas season, the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital Foundation, in collaboration with other community organizations, decorate a Tree of Love at the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital and other locations throughout the Bay St. George area. The tree is adorned with Christmas lights that are purchased by people in the community in memory of a loved one who has passed on, and proceeds go toward much needed equipment for the hospital.
The Tree of Love ceremony took place on Monday, Dec. 13 in the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital’s Garden of Hope.
Laura Aylward, Chair of the foundation, said that over the years accommodations have been made on where the tree would be located.
“Our Tree of Love has been ongoing for a long time, as you know. We always had it in the courtyard and in the early years we had it outside in the front and you put on your own bulbs,” said Aylward. “As the years changed, the weather changed and everything changed, we decided to have it inside, but this year we thought the Garden of Hope was a great place to have it.”
Following Aylward’s introduction to the event, Danielle Shae, Director of Patient Services at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital, said a few words.
“It’s always one of my favourite events, the Tree of Love. It used to be in the atrium. That used to be standing room only for many years, so it was certainly attended by many but it’s so nice to have one this year where we were only able to do a virtual one last year. We’re delighted and I just wanted to thank everybody so much for coming,” said Shae. “We value the hard work the Foundation is always doing for us, and the donations that give a real sense of community to our hospital.”
The Town of Cape St. George had their Tree of Love ceremony directly after their Santa Claus Parade, a few days prior to the Stephenville ceremony. Aylward said they did an amazing job as usual.
“They always do it outside, but they don’t have a big ceremony. They instead stand around the tree and plug in the lights, said Aylward. “And do you know, they collected $1,290 in that small community, so I thought that was just wonderful.”
Normally, the Tree of Love would have a book next to it which lists the names of everyone who a donation was made for; however, due to COVID-19 restrictions this year, the list of loved ones can be found on the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital Foundation’s Facebook page.
Aylward said this is the first Tree of Love ceremony that took place since 2019, and it was wonderful to see those who came to celebrate.
“Every light on that tree represents your loved ones and it’s so heartwarming to see all of you that came out here tonight,” said Aylward. “Because it’s not about raising money or anything like that. It’s about remembering our loved ones that have gone. We all know they are with the Lord and the rest of our relatives, and I think they’re looking down on us tonight, that’s what I firmly believe.”
Reverend Kriss Gosse of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church said a prayer for loved ones separated during the holidays, people who are ill, loved ones who have passed on, and for the safety of everyone during the holiday season.
“We ask that the lights of all the Christmas trees we see around us illuminate our Christmas season so that we’ll never be unmindful of the true light that is Christmas,” said Gosse. “May all the gifts under your tree this year remind you all of the true gift of Christmas.”
Pastor Darren Sacrey of Zion Pentecostal Church, with help from the crowd, sang Christmas carols to uplift the spirits of those in attendance.
Aylward said that it is because of generous donations by community leaders and businesses that the foundation is able to purchase things the hospital needs.
“We have purchased this past year three dialysis machines that we are currently waiting on. We got $25,000 from The Kinsmen Club to help towards that. This year we’re purchasing another $75,000 worth of new equipment for the hospital,” said Aylward. “And, of course, we have a new CAT scan that government paid for, so that’s really good and everything looks positive.”