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‘This is how my family kicks off the holiday season,’ says dad Steve Kelly.
More than a hundred volunteers returned to St. Paul’s Saturday morning to begin six weeks of setup for this year’s Lights of Hope, an annual fundraiser to improve critical medical care for thousands of patients in British Columbia.
Maple Ridge’s Steve Kelly worked with his daughter Heather Kelly to unspool more than 10 kilometres of 100,000 lights and stars that will soon twinkle upon a wall of scaffolding in front of the acute care hospital.
“This is how my family kicks off the holiday season,” said Steve Kelly, who is an electrician by trade.
The annual downtown light display has been installed each winter since 1998, offering corporate and individual donors the chance to sponsor a star, in honour of a loved one, on a multi-storey-tall display.
In two decades since Kelly began volunteering to construct the showcase – which has raised close to $50 million over the last 25 years – the father has been joined by his two children on more than a dozen occasions.
“I got to teach my son Jason how to run a lift here, and Heather is now in her first year of medical school at the University of B.C.,” the 55-year-old told Postmedia News.
“It’s extraordinary to think that bringing my daughter with me to set the lights up all these years helped lead her in the direction she’s going in, of becoming a doctor.”
In his early years of volunteering, Kelly witnessed first-hand the impact St. Paul’s had on a high-school classmate, who had contracted HIV after living on the street for several years.
“They went above and beyond to make him feel comfortable in his last days, despite the huge stigma that surrounded his drug use. The nurses and doctors showed so much compassion and care.”
Cecilia Tupper, chief development officer of the foundation, said this year’s goal is to raise $3.6 million to fund more equipment, life-saving research and community programs at Providence Health Care hospitals and long-term care homes in B.C.
“We know that now more than ever, British Columbians seeking medical care are feeling that health care is on its back foot,” Tupper said.
“Contributions this winter will be earmarked for two flagship projects: the building of the new St. Paul’s hospital on the Jim Pattison medical campus in False Creek and a new publicly-funded dementia care village Comox for patients on Vancouver Island.”
Following opening night, which kicks off Nov. 23 with fireworks, the light display will shine nightly at the intersection of Burrard and Helmcken streets until early January.
“There isn’t a single answer that will solve all of B.C.’s health care programs, but we know that together we can make a difference,” said Tupper.
“We’re excited to finally be able to turn the lights on.”
Donations to the fundraising campaign can be made while visiting the Lights of Hope website.
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