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Tree lighting a 'celebration of life'
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Forsyth County News

At a glance

* In addition to lighting the tree, the Celebration of Lights features a petting zoo, cookie decorations, clowns and storytelling. There also will be crafts, photos with Santa Claus, refreshments and fireworks.

* Entertainment will be provided by West Forsyth High, Lanier Middle and Settles Bridge Elementary schools, as well as the Sawnee Ballet.

* The event will run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the hospital, 1200 Northside Forsyth Drive in Cumming.

* For more information, or to purchase a light, contact: (404) 851-8389 or

* For a preview of the 2008 Cumming Christmas Parade & Festival, click here

* Going to the parade? Plan ahead and arrive early.

Thomas Seay has been an oncologist with Northside Hospital for more than a decade. Over the years, he's helped countless cancer patients in their fight.

On one special day, Seay can watch the lighting of the hospital's Christmas tree and celebrate both the lives and memory of his patients.

"It gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect to remind ourselves that we've had a lot of wins over the course of time, as well as on occasion not," he said. "[It also] goes a long way with patients, both in terms of a celebration of life, as well as a celebration of those in memory."

This year marks the eighth anniversary of the Northside Hospital-Forsyth Celebration of Lights. Each year, the hospital's 72-foot Christmas tree is lit with the glow of thousands of lights.

But the tree is more than a Christmas tradition. It's a symbol of life.

Each of the tree's lights signifies the life of a cancer survivor or the memory of a life lost to the disease.

"Every light on that tree is money for research, in honor of the people that have survived and the memories of those who didn't," said hospital volunteer Pat Consolo. "It just kind of brings it home and brings a reminder that we're still fighting this battle."

Consolo, who has attended the event with daughter Shannon the past two years, is not just a spectator. She also buys a light.

"I am a cancer survivor, so that is what makes this all very special," she said. "As a survivor, it's just phenomenal to see the caring. It's a celebration, and I think the hospital does it so great."

The Consolos were among more than 5,000 people who came to the event last year.

"What's so neat for me is it's kind of like small town America," she said. "It's a real community event."

For current cancer patients, Seay said the event is a chance to be at the hospital under a completely different set of circumstances.

"The clinic is a location whereby its very nature generates angst, anxiety, apprehension and sometimes joy for patients," he said.

"[The event] is a moment in time when they're more reflective, more positive and when they're in more of a personal mode."

"It's often a significant time, for both the exchange of gratitude, appreciation and hope."