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Northside Hospital-Forsyth kicks off season with Celebration of Lights

CUMMING — The night was bright with light. It was shining from the top of the building and oozing from smiles and faces.

And though it was cold outside, warmth seemed to surround the hundreds of people inside the parking lot-sized tent.

The annual Celebration of Lights was held Friday night at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, bringing the Christmas season to the forefront for many — both those who attended the festival and Ga. 400 motorists who can see the 65-foot tree, wrapped in 4,200 lights, illuminated atop the hospital.

“I’m most excited about the lighting of the tree,” said Celia Eppinger’s 9-year-old son, though he seemed more excited at the moment about a helicopter landing at the hospital.

Eppinger said this was her family’s first year attending the festival. They came to see her niece sing in the Coal Mountain Elementary School choir.

“We just love Christmas,” she said. “We enjoy the whole season.”

Lights on the trees celebrate cancer survivors and honor those who have lost their fight, as well as their friends and family, said Sheila Perkins, volunteer and community events coordinator for Northside.

The event had the complete checklist of the makings of a celebratory night — food, hot drinks, games, performances, crafts and Santa Claus.

The Portilla family also came for the Coal Mountain choir performance.

Danielle Portilla said her son was singing, so they grabbed a seat up front to watch.

Mailea Portilla, 6, said she was most excited for Santa, though her favorite part about Christmas in general is, of course, the presents.

Wayne Conrey, a Northside employee, attended the festival for the first time this year with his family.

“We came for all of the festivities. And Santa,” said his wife, Jessica Conrey.

While most events, food and activities were free, proceeds from the paid items benefit the Northside Cancer Institute.

More than 100 volunteers put the evening on, from booth vendors to golf cart shuttle drivers.

“Some people come every year as a way to kick off the holiday season,” Perkins said, “and others come to remember their fight with cancer or to celebrate being alive.”