An overflowing crowd gathered inside the entrance of Meritus Medical Center Sunday for a tradition known as the Tree of Lights, which recognizes the spiritual nature of the holiday season while highlighting an annual fundraiser for the hospital.
The crowd was pretty remarkable since it was held at the same time the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers were playing, said Joseph P. Ross, president and chief executive officer of Meritus Health.
“That’s testimony to the strength of this tradition,” Ross said, joking to a crowd of about 200 people.
As usual, seating was set up for the event next to the front desk, but a large crowd of standing spectators filled the area around the front desk and extended into a lobby area.
In the Tree of Lights program, supporters buy lights to fund equipment needs at the hospital. Regular lights cost $10, dove lights cost $25, angel lights cost $50, life lights cost $100 and circles of lights cost $500.
Hospital officials illuminated the lights on a blue spruce outside the entrance to the hospital during the 5 p.m. ceremony.
So far, a little more than $13,000 has been raised, which will be used to buy a chest-compression system for the hospital’s emergency department. The system costs about $15,000.
The chest-compression system conducts cardiopulmonary resuscitation automatically. Using the machine allows doctors and nurses to do other work for a patient while the machine is working, hospital officials said.
The Tree of Lights program has raised about $440,000 for the hospital over the years, according to Linda Hovis and Betty Dattilio, co-chairwomen of the Tree of Lights Committee.
Dattilio said one of the reasons money needs to be raised for the hospital is because needs crop up in the middle of the year for which funds have not been budgeted.
David C. Baker, director of spiritual care services at Meritus Medical Center, talked about the symbolism associated with the evergreen tree.
As the season of winter approaches and the signs of life fade, the spruce tree in front of the hospital stands as a testament that nature will come to life again, Baker said.
The tree also demonstrates the eternal presence of God, Baker said.
“Holy God, we pray for your brightness to shine upon our hearts this evening. May we know your grace as it appears for us in the lighting of this tree,” Baker said.
Four- and 5-year-old students at The Learning Center sang Christmas songs at the ceremony.
Supporters can purchase tree lights until Dec. 31. To purchase a light, call the Meritus Medical Center Auxiliary at 301-790-8143.