On Thursday, November 16, Novant Health Matthews Medical Center was filled with visitors for the highly anticipated 9th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
The Tree Lighting Ceremony kicks off the annual display of creatively-decorated trees sponsored by local individuals, businesses, churches and organizations. This year there are 57 unique trees on display, 26 of which are up for auction. Bids for the trees begin at $250.00, which may seem steep until you consider the average cost of creating these works of art is around $600.00. All the money raised from the trees’ sales will be given to Matthews HELP Center, Levine Senior Center, Latin American Women’s Association, Matthews Free Medical Clinic and COSKids. Additionally, another 8-12 trees are donated to families in need through the Matthews Free Medical Clinic.
Visitors who arrived early on Thursday were treated to vocal and piano selections from Charlotte Academy of Music students like Jesse Mindel’s performance of “Let it Snow” and 16-year-old Sophia Raspanti’s performance of “Sleigh Ride.” Festive music continued throughout the evening with piano selections from Nell Pait before the tree lighting and vocal selections from Carolina Voices to end the evening.
The night included visitors from several special guests. Santa Claus arrived with his elves around 5:30, and as has become his tradition at the Tree Lighting, stayed to see each and every child who wanted to give him their Christmas wish list. Many children were delighted to see the Chick-Fil-A cow in the crowd. Miss South Carolina Cheryl McDermott, whose platform focuses on children with special needs and bullying, greeted visitors to the hospital. “It’s amazing!” says McDermott, who had never witnessed the tree lighting before. “Everyone is so excited!”
At 6:00, Medical Center President Roland Bibeau kicked off the ceremony by talking about the importance of community and enjoying the season. “To me, this part is what it’s all about,” said Bibeau, gesturing to the excited children in the crowd. Bibeau also feels it’s important for people to experience a joyful event like the tree lighting at the hospital. “Then when folks come with a need, they’re not so intimidated,” he says. After an invocation and blessing from Chaplain Hunter Roddey and remarks from Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor and Chief of Staff Dr. Thomas Zban, the moment everyone had gathered for arrived. Cancer survivor Will Henley led the countdown, and when he got to zero, visitors were greeted with a magical site as all fifty-seven trees came to life.
The ninth annual tree lighting drew unprecedented crowds to the hospital. Guests enjoyed hot cocoa, cookies and treats in the community room and participated in a free raffle for gear like a giant teddy bear and a sport cooler.
Bidding on the trees will end in mid-December, but anyone can visit the hospital to view and enjoy them throughout the holiday season.