Photo by Valerie Baldowski
Santa Claus got a carriage ride during Thursday's tree lighting ceremony at Henry Medical Center. Hospital officials said the annual event began as a way to encourage hospital employees to mingle with the community.
By Valerie Baldowski
Jane Phillips sat her four children down on the sidewalk in front of the south tower entrance to Henry Medical Center (HMC), and gave each of them a hot chocolate.
The group included 9-year-old Ethan Reinblatt, and his siblings, 6-year-old Chloe, 1-year-old Piper, and 3-year-old Dillon. The mother and children were bundled up against the cold, surrounded by crowds of people waiting in front of the hospital's 30-foot-tall Christmas tree.
The event, which drew more than 250 people, was the hospital's eighth annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, held on Thursday at the medical center.
The activities included sleigh rides with Santa, and singing by the HMC Choir, as well as children's choirs from Rocky Creek and Dutchtown elementary schools.
Heidi Long was warming up dozens of fourth and fifth-grade students, the members of the Dutchtown Elementary School choir, before directing them in singing "Rise Up Shepherd and Follow," "My Favorite Things," and "Rock Around The Jingle Bells." The children took their places, watching carefully for their cue.
Long said the students had been practicing since September. "We're glad to be here, that's for sure," she said.
The children enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the program, continued the choir director. "They like being part of the community, and getting out," Long added.
Jane Phillips, and her four children, came to the event to see Santa. Phillips said she also attended because of her son's involvement with some of the music.
"Ethan was singing in the Dutchtown Elementary chorus, so we came to see him," she said. "It was our first time at the tree lighting. The Santa and the sleigh has been a big hit."
Ethan agreed. "I think it's awesome," he said. "Dillon and Chloe and Piper all love it. I like it, too. I think it's a nice touch. I'm actually glad that I can even be here."
Ethan said this was his first time singing during the hospital's tree lighting ceremony.
"At first, I was kind of nervous, but then when I went out, I was so excited," he added. "Now, I'm shocked at myself for actually doing it."
Cookies and hot apple cider were served during the event, and the ceremony culminated with the lighting of the tree. Soloist Dana Blackwood, a Henry County resident, sang "O Holy Night," as the tree was lit by Daniel Rasar, the first patient to be treated at the hospital's new Radiation Oncology Center.
The annual ceremony began as a way for Henry Medical to get in the Christmas spirit, said Charlie Scott, HMC president and chief executive officer.
"There was a feeling that it would be nice for the hospital to join the celebration of the Christmas season," said Scott. "I think it's a great chance for the employees to come out and mingle with the community, listen to music, have refreshments, and just celebrate. To me, it sort of sets the stage, an introduction to the holiday season."