SUNDRE — Although ongoing public health measures will again impact the annual Tree of Hope and candlelight service ceremony’s format, the traditional fundraisers for palliative care patients will nevertheless proceed.
“We’re sort of in the same canoe as last year, in that we can’t really get an in-person, in-house gathering happening,” said Diana Kleinloog, Sundre Palliative Care Association chair.
While the tree lighting ceremony has always been hosted outside at the Myron Thompson Health Centre’s parking lot, the candlelight service was prior to the pandemic hosted separately a couple of weeks later either at one of the local church halls or the Sundre Seniors Supportive Living centre. Last year, both of the events were combined into one outdoor ceremony to facilitate accommodating public health measures.
Members of the association have recently been attending local Christmas farmers’ markets to provide pledge forms for people who want to support the program and have the name of a loved one recognized at this year’s service, which takes place starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 in tandem with Sundown in Sundre.
“People really are looking out already for that Tree of Hope sign and passing along a donation in memory of their loved one,” Kleinloog said last week during a phone interview.
“We’ve had such a great response — it’s such a great community to live in,” she said.
Having confirmed the plans with the health centre’s site lead, Kleinloog said the public is welcome to attend the ceremony but will be asked to don masks and remain physically distanced.
Alongside her colleague Jo-Anne McDonald, Kleinloog will share a few words prior to reading out the names of lost loved ones as well as those facing life’s final journey, followed by the lighting of the tree.
Blue bulbs are lit in memory of loved ones who have passed away, while red bulbs are meant as an expression of hope and support for those who are still with us.
While donations will continue to be accepted after the tree lighting ceremony, anyone who would like the name of a loved one included as part of the service must fill out and submit a pledge form directly at the hospital’s main desk prior to the Nov. 30 deadline. The forms are available throughout the community at participating businesses including the grocery store.
“We’ll be sure to include their names,” she said.
The candlelight service will follow immediately after the tree lighting ceremony, said Kleinloog, adding that would under ideal circumstances be held indoors with a participating minister, the lighting of floating candles in a basin, some music, snacks and warm drinks as well as — perhaps most importantly — an opportunity for people to share their feelings in the face of losing a loved one.
“It’s the talking about how you’re feeling at this time of year with your loss that is really helpful for people,” she said.
“We hope to return to that, maybe by next year. But this year is not the year to do that yet,” she said, adding there will instead be some outdoor singing.
The association is always receptive to new members and welcomes people who want to help give back to the community, she said.
“This is a very rewarding way to do it.”
Anyone who wants to join is encouraged to contact Kleinloog either by phone at 403-335-8481 or email at [email protected].