DERRY — Although it was pouring rain the night of the second annual Tree of Lights ceremony at Parkland Medical Center, those attending were warmed by the charitable event which benefited the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Derry.
Attendees gathered in the hospital's in-service room adjacent to the cafeteria. They stayed warm while several members of the Boys & Girls Club went outside and threw the switch to light the tree, which could be seen from the window.
Hospice chaplain Arthur Reublinger gave a blessing at the opening of the ceremony after a few remarks by Parkland CEO Tina Legere.
Hospital staff and members of the community were invited to purchase a bulb for the tree in honor or in memory of someone who was a true hero in their lives. With the hospital's matching donation, $2,500 was raised as of Dec. 7, the evening of the tree-lighting ceremony.
Art McLean, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, said he had chosen recipients who would benefit from the fundraiser.
"We'll be able to purchase gifts and food baskets for the neediest of families," he said.
Several members of the club's leadership group were present for the ceremony — Fallon Laforge, 18; Andy Tenhagen, 15; Trevor Mensinger, 17; and Michael Spanos, 14, all from Derry.
Laforge was the recipient of the club's Youth of the Year award and she read the essay she wrote for the award.
Laforge has been attending the club's after-school program since 2000.
"The club accepted me for who I am," Laforge said, "and gave me confidence."
She called the club her refuge, where someone was always "willing to talk with me about my day."
"I have a lifetime of memories, lessons and friendships," Laforge said.
A senior at Pinkerton Academy, she will attend Johnson & Wales University in Providence next year to study to become a pastry chef.
After the ceremony, guests were treated to cookies, brownies and cider while musician Nancy Day of Rowley, Mass., sang holiday songs, accompanied by her keyboard.
Donations are still being accepted for the Boys & Girls Club at the hospital's front desk in the main entrance or by calling 421-2551.
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