‘Lights of Love’ raises money for scholarships

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Joan Antila of the Portage Health Auxiliary reads names of loved ones being remembered during the annual Lights of Love ceremony Thursday.

HANCOCK — The Portage Health Auxiliary remembered loved ones and celebrated scholarships given to students in health fields at its annual Lights of Love celebration Thursday.

Through the program, people can donate in honor of someone who has passed on to purchase a light on the Christmas tree in the UP Health System – Portage hospital lobby. That money helped fund 15 $1,000 scholarships last May. Over the past 15 years, more than 100 students have been helped through the program, said Barb Worrall of the Portage Health Auxiliary.

“We pause during the busyness of the season to focus on what’s really important, and that is the love and the memories of family and friends,” she said.

Interim CEO Ryan Heinonen was tapped for tree-lighting honors this year. He thanked the auxiliary and community members for supporting the program for so many years.

“Being the holiday season, it can be a challenging time to think of those that we lost over the last many years,” he said. “This event gives us an opportunity to remember those and also honor those that are still here with us today.”

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Ryan Heinonen, interim CEO of UP Health System - Portage, lights the Christmas tree in the lobby Thursday during the Portage Health Auxiliary’s annual Lights of Love ceremony.

Auxiliary member Joan Antila read off the names of people being remembered this year.

The event was the first after a one-year layoff. As the hospital advised the auxiliary not to provide refreshments on site, they gave treats to people in take-home bags.

The crowd also heard a musical performance and sang “Silent Tonight” together.

One of the departed close to Worrall is her husband, Gary, who died four years ago after suffering a stroke.

“I must tell you that I’m not always happy,” she said. “But I strive really hard to find joy. And I have so much to be joyful for and I imagine you do too.”


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