Volunteers begin setting up annual Lights of Hope display

The St. Paul's Foundation’s Lights of Hope is celebrating the 26th year of its iconic wall of lights. We hear from volunteers why this event means so much to them.

The Lights of Hope display at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital will be lit for its 26th year this November, and set-up is already underway.

Despite its opening being more than a month away, volunteers are already busy helping set up the impressive light display, which will illuminate the names of donors to the hospital through twinkling lights and shiny stars.

“We’re really excited to welcome back, year after year, incredible volunteers to help us put up the Lights of Hope display,” said Cecilia Tupper, chief development officer for the St. Paul’s Foundation. “They’re unspooling thousands of lights and erecting hundreds of stars where we’re displaying the names of generous donors.”

Heather Kelly, a first year medical student at the University of British Columbia, has been volunteering at Lights of Hope for more than 12 years. She says she and her brother were two of the event’s first youth volunteers, deciding to follow in the footsteps of their dad.

Kelly says her dad is an electrician who has been volunteering at Lights of Hope for the past 25 years.

“Lights of Hope is a way I can see what he’s interested in and what kind of skills and knowledge he has from his work,” she said.

Volunteering is also what inspired her to pursue becoming a physician, she said.

“No one in my family was in the health-care field, and coming to St. Paul’s to do Lights of Hope gave me that initial spark of what it’s like to be in health care,” she said. “There’s a shortage right now of physicians, so since I’m capable, I’m hoping to fill that void in our community and bring people the care they need.”

Steven Kelly, Heather’s father and an electrician with the IBEW 213 Union, says he started volunteering because his work asked him if he wanted to. Several years later, his work for the foundation became more personal when a friend of his ended up in the hospital’s care.

“A friend of mine from high school who had substance abuse issues ended up being homeless and contracted HIV. St. Paul’s was instrumental in making him comfortable for his final days,” he said.

“There’s a lot of stigma involved in people who use drugs, people who are on the street… To the staff here, it doesn’t matter. They see the people who come to them for the people that they are.”

He says he brought his son for the first time 20 years ago and Heather came with him for the first time about 11 years ago. Since then, he says, its been a family affair.

A tunnel people can walk through and fireworks at the opening lighting ceremony are a couple of things Tupper says visitors should look forward to this year.

Tupper says the lighting ceremony on Nov. 23 will mark the “start of the giving season,” and the annual fundraising campaign will continue until Jan. 5.

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