Love and light festival

Attendees join in singing "Silent Night" to end the St. Clare Hospital Auxiliary's Festival of Love and Light as the hospital's healing garden is illuminated with Christmas lights.

JAKE PRINSEN/News Republic

The St. Clare Hospital Auxiliary’s Festival of Love and Light raised more than $3,000 for hospital programs, according to group leaders.

This year’s 14th annual event paid homage to local military members and first responders. The Monday night ceremony featured a flag salute conducted by the North Freedom American Legion Post #172 as well as a special tree decorated with red, white and blue Christmas lights.

“We want to thank the men and women who keep us safe in service every day,” Auxiliary Co-President Judy Spencer said. “Tonight we are blessed to be able to give thanks to you for the work that you do each and every day.”

The festival is one of the Auxiliary’s largest fundraisers. Before the event each year, the Auxiliary sells Christmas bulbs for $5 and strings of lights for $25 that attendees purchase in memory of late friends and family members.

This year’s lights honored the memory of nearly 400 individuals. The money will be used used to fund special hospital programs, medical equipment purchases and a scholarship program for Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells residents who are interested in entering the medical field.

The festival began with refreshments in the hospital’s Ringling room followed by a musical performance from Mikaela Lien and an opening prayer from SSM St. Clare Hospital President Laura Jelle. Pastor Tina Lang of First United Methodist Church in Madison delivered the meditation and message for those in attendance.

Lang said the Festival of Love and Light is a “holy night.”

“There are many ways that this night becomes holy,” she said. “Some of us are here taking the risk of being vulnerable with our grief; some of us our here because we are here to stand alongside and support neighbors, friends and even strangers who are in the midst of grief.”

Following the program, visitors went to the hospital’s Healing Garden, where they each lit individual candles as the garden was illuminated with thousands of Christmas lights. The crowd then joined together in singing “Silent Night,” and the North Freedom Legion Post performed a flag salute as the Festival of Love and Light came to a close.

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

Baraboo News Republic Reporter