The Airdrie and District Hospice Society (ADHS) officially opened its Tree of Hope fundraising campaign on Dec. 1, with the ceremonial lighting of the Tree of Hope at City Hall.
The lighting of the Tree of Hope is an annual tradition in Airdrie and always takes place on the first day of December, according to Daria Kibington-Roffel, the president of ADHS. She said the ceremony is meant to acknowledge the lives of those who passed away in the last year, and provide an opportunity for their loved ones to honour and remember them.
“It's basically a time of remembrance for anyone at this time of year who wants to remember or honour a loved on that has passed away,” she said.
Skibington-Roffel added the timing of the ceremony is significant, as the holidays are typically the toughest time of year for those grieving the death of a loved one.
“We know this time of year is hard for a lot of people,” she said. “[This is] a compassionate event to recognize the grief that some community members are coping with during what is usually supposed to be a happy time of year.”
Roughly 20 people attended the Dec. 1 event, including representatives from ADHS and the City of Airdrie. After lighting the tree, Skibington-Roffel, Mayor Peter Brown, and ADHS executive director Lise Blanchette all said a few words.
After that, Doug Lynch from the Catholic church provided a non-denominational memorial ceremony and read aloud a list of submitted names of Airdronians who have died this year, while attendees bowed their heads and held candles.
This year marked the first time the Tree of Hope ceremony was held at Airdrie City Hall. Typically, the ceremony takes place in Nose Creek Regional Park, and coincides with the opening night of the Airdrie Festival of Lights.
Skibington-Roffel said there were some notable advantages to hosting the ceremony at City Hall this year. She said it allowed ADHS to use a real tree instead of the society's usual artificial one, and the location just off Main Street means motorists will be able to see the purple lights of the tree all month long.
Plus, having a real tree is an important symbol, Skibington-Roffel added.
“This was our first year actually having a real evergreen tree,” she said.
“The evergreen tree is sort of a symbol of hope, because it's alive in the winter when all the other trees have lost their trees and are dormant,” she added. “They remind us that even though everything seems dark right now, at least there's some life. There is life there.”
In terms of the fundraising aspect of the Tree of Hope, Skibington-Roffel said Airdronians are encouraged all month to support ADHS' campaign. She said this year, the charity partnered with local business Muk-Luk Magpies Stained Glass Emporium, and is selling handmade stained glass angel and tulip Christmas tree ornaments for $20 each. Proceeds from the sale of the ornaments will support the hospice society and its programs.
“We've done a lot of work with them,” Skibington-Roffel said of the society's relationship with Muk-Luk Magpies. “They've been very supportive of us, so they made those especially for us this year, which was nice.”
Skibington-Roffel said anyone wishing to make a pledge to ADHS this holiday season can either call or email the society, or donate online at airdriehospice.ca