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Meritus Medical Center's Tree of Lights a symbol of fundraiser helping those in need

December 04, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • The Tree of Lights is illuminated outside Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown Sunday. Funds raised through the Tree of Lights are used for equipment and other services at the hospital.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

A 39-year-old woman recently went to Meritus Medical Center for chest pains and suffered a massive heart attack, hospital officials said at the hospital’s annual Tree of Lights ceremony Sunday evening.

The woman did not have insurance for her treatment, but thanks to a special fund set up for needy people at the hospital, the woman got the care she needed, according to Betty Dattilio, co-chairwoman of this year’s Tree of Lights campaign.

The fund is one of several programs that will benefit from the longtime fundraiser at the hospital, which raises thousands of dollars each year for needed equipment and other services at the hospital, Dattilio said.

Money from the fundraiser will also be used to purchase a new wheelchair van this year, which is used to help patients get to medical appointments, Dattilio said.

Money is raised through people who buy Christmas tree lights in memory of loved ones. Regular lights cost $10, dove lights cost $25, angel lights cost $50, life lights cost $100 and a circle of lights cost $500.

About $10,000 has been raised in this year’s campaign, and about $6,000 more is needed, said Dattilio, who said the fundraising will continue throughout the month.

As usual, the lights are on a blue spruce that is planted outside the front entrance of the hospital. The tree was lit as part of an annual ceremony Sunday evening after a crowd for the event was moved down a hallway so it could see the lighting through a large glass window.

About 1,112 lights are on the tree so far, Dattilio said.
David C. Baker, director of spiritual care services at Meritus Medical Center, talked about the tradition of decorating trees, and said the custom dates back to Roman times before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Romans hung apples and other sweet treats on fir trees to celebrate a moment in winter when days started to become longer, Baker said.

“Shine on us God that we may not only see you in the tree of lights but in each other,” Baker said.

Joseph P. Ross, president and chief executive officer of Meritus Health, talked during the ceremony about what he is thankful for this year, including a new grandchild and that wars are winding down.

The gradual ending of the wars will allow people to think about peace again and new opportunities, Ross said.

“I wish the economy was better. I wish there was not as much economic suffering this year,” Ross said.

 At the former Washington County Hospital, the ceremony, now in its 27th year, was usually held on the main level of the hospital and those attending could look out large windows to see a Christmas tree being lit.

 At the new hospital, a spruce tree donated by Roger Finn of Antietam Tree and Turf was planted outside the front entrance to be used for the annual ceremony.

 “Mr. Finn, that tree has really taken off,” Mitch Towe, director of volunteer services at the hospital, said during Sunday’s ceremony.

  A ladder was used to decorate the tree when the ceremony was held at Meritus Medical Center for the first time last year, but this year, a bucket truck was needed to decorate it, Towe said.

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