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Love Light tree gets holiday glowing

DEMOPOLIS-A large crowd gathered despite clouds and windy weather at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital’s front lawn Sunday to officially kick off Christmas on the River with the 16th lighting of the Love Lights Tree.

This year, Will Freeman, the 2005 Christmas on the River special child, officially brought the lights to life.

This year’s Christmas on the River Chairman, Mitchell Snipes, said the annual event is a celebration of the festival and the hard work and preparation that made it possible.

“This kicks our week off and a lot of hard work has gone into it,” Snipes said. “Not only am I proud because of Christmas on the River, but I am also proud because I am a department manager that has been a beneficiary of the pink ladies hard work and their dedication to this facility.”

Each year, the hospital gives individuals an opportunity to purchase love light ornaments to honor or remember a special person. They can also be purchased in honor of a church, group or any other organization. The lights are displayed on the tree until the New Year.

The lighting of the tree is only the beginning of the fundraiser, said Brenda Parr, President of the Bryan W. Whitfield Auxiliary,

“Some people think that this is the end of the fundraiser,” Parr said. “But actually, it is just the beginning.”

The love lights are on sale until the end of December, but Parr said they have already received a lot of support.

“We, the pink ladies are all tickled pink at the tremendous support we have received,” Parr said.

Parr said all the proceeds are used to buy new equipment and provide other needs for the hospital.

Through the years, love light ornament sales have brought modest numbers. However, Parr said this year they hit a record high.

“At the beginning of this fundraiser we set a very optimistic goal of $5,000,” Parr said. “In past years we have averaged around $1,000 or $1,300. I am happy to announce tonight we have exceeded that goal and we thank you all very, very much.”

As of Sunday, the total stood over $6,000. Wreathes, which were sold to local businesses, played a crucial part in this. So far, 48 wreathes have been sold at $100 a piece.

Director of Public Relations Chrissy Brooker said this year’s fundraiser was successful because of the game plan.

“They started early and they were really organized,” Brooker said. “They have done a great job and people have really been supportive.”

The pink ladies were formed in 1973 and now number 40. Hospital CEO Mike Marshall said they donated 8,950 hours of volunteer service and contributed $60,000 worth of support and equipment to the auxiliary.

Their contributions, Marshall said, went much farther than the hospital.

“Probably, most important is the support they give our community,” Marshall said. “They spend an enormous amount of time on things that not only help the hospital, but help our community.”

The group, Marshall said, has made his job a lot easier.