Hospital group raises money with tree

Published 8:16 pm Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tree lighting: Last year at the tree lighting ceremony Tyshria Whitehead, 7, a first-grade student at Kilby Shores Elementary School, chats briefly with Santa Claus during a tree-lighting ceremony held by the Obici Hospital Auxiliary at the National Guard Armory on Thursday. Tyshria and other first-graders presented a brief program of music, which culminated in Santa’s appearance — to the surprise and delight of the children.

Most ornaments on a tree are decorative, but the ornaments to go on the tree at the Sentara Obici Hospital represent much more.

Each $5 ornament or $50 star will honor or memorialize a loved one, and all the proceeds will be donated to the Community Outreach Program at the hospital.

“It’s a time-honored tradition that we’ve had people come back every year to help us with,” said Debbie Williams, president of the Obici Auxiliary. “They’re more than just bulbs on a tree. Many people would rather give this than a present.”

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The tree-lighting ceremony will take place Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. in the atrium on the main floor of the hospital. King’s Fork Middle School and Santa Claus will provide holiday entertainment.

The tree-lighting ceremony and its fundraiser have been traditions for at least the past 30 years, Williams said.

In the past, the organization has sold lights for $10 in memory of or in honor of individuals. But because of economic conditions, the auxiliary decided to reduce the price to $5 this year.

Also this year, instead of lights, there will be silver ornaments with the person’s name the purchaser chooses to honor or memorialize on them.

Organizations that have been benefited from past tree lightings include the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, Sentara Obici Hospice Health Care and Sentara Obici Breast Health Center.

The Community Outreach Program, which will benefit from the proceeds this year, provides help for patients with diabetes and heart failure who earn nor more than 200 percent of the federally determined poverty level.

The organization’s goal is to improve a patient’s quality of life and reduce medical costs. As a result, emergency department visits and hospital admissions have decreased.

Since its founding in 1998, more than 800 persons have been in the program and 130 to 140 cases are open at any given time.

“Diabetes and heart failure are so prevalent in Western Tidewater,” Williams said. “It seems to make giving so much better when there is a long lasting effect to the present being given, and it makes the person receiving feel good that someone has done this in their name. The tree is symbolic of giving, and hopefully giving of oneself to help this program.”

To purchase an ornament, call 934-4788 or stop by the hospital to pick up a form.