© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Two-year-old Gus Arsenault of Summerside was one of the hundreds of people who braved the wet and the cold Wednesday evening for the official Lights for Life lighting ceremony outside Prince County Hospital. The 21st annual campaign raised a record-breaking $224,557, money used by the hospital foundation to purchase equipment for the facility.
Gasps, oohs and ahs, looks of sheer wonderment and surprise.
Then, as the light display set to music ended, came applause.
Under umbrellas and raincoats, hundreds braved the wet and the cold to watch as thousands of colourful lights were illuminated as part of the 21st annual Lights for Life event outside Summerside’s Prince County Hospital Wednesday evening.
This year, the campaign, organized by the Prince County Hospital Foundation, raised a record-breaking $224,557 for equipment needs at the province’s second largest hospital.
The total is always a closely guarded secret, something only revealed moments prior to the official lighting, and an honour that fell upon Sandy Rundle, president of the foundation board.
“This year we have had a real significant increase in our equipment needs list, and it is a $2.3-million list,” said Rundle in an interview prior to the ceremony. “We are providing about a half million dollars worth of new scopes that need to be purchased. The big-ticket item, about $1 million, is to replace the CT scan. There is another $700,000 worth of other items.”
Rundle said Lights for Life is one of the foundation’s largest annual fundraisers, second to Grass Roots and Cowboy Boots, which, this year, raised a record $1,075,653.
“You are raising money for the hospital, which is a pillar of our community and, at some point, something anybody may need the services of,” he said of why Islanders continue to dig deep and donate. “Lights for Life is... really designed that anybody can participate, whether you are buying a large display or a $10 light bulb.
“It is a special evening. The community still amazes me in their generosity and support.”
It was a festive atmosphere — minus the snow — on the grounds of the hospital, with Christmas music, hot chocolate being sipped and helping keep hands warm, and families gathered for what has become, for many, the kickoff to the holidays.
Funds were raised through buying lights in memory or honour of loved ones or purchasing a light, even an entire display, as a way to give back to the hospital.
One of those people who contributed is Barb Gallant.
The city senior had a hefty gift for the equipment campaign — about 20 pounds of dimes that she saved over eight years.
Gallant had hoped to fill the antique apothecary that she found in her father’s old workshop much earlier with spare change, but its neck would only fit dimes.
“I got it about half full and thought I am going to fill it and give it to the hospital.”
She had been a patient at the old Prince County Hospital and was thankful for the care of its doctors and nurses.
“The new hospital is fantastic,” added Gallant. “It needs our support.”
She recently stopped by the foundation office with the bottle of dimes, a total of $460.
Gallant also makes a monthly donation to the hospital foundation.
Wednesday night, as in years past, she was on hand for the ceremony, watching as her lights were illuminated in grand fashion.
“It is something to see.”
So, does Gallant plan to fill that bottle, again, for the annual campaign?
“Oh, yes, I started already,” she said with a laugh.
Donations to Lights for Life will be accepted until the end of December.