Remembering with lights in Hay River

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The lighting of the Christmas Memory Tree – a seasonal tradition in Hay River – took place on Dec. 13.

Kim Rowe, left, and Brenna Beck look over a framed list of the names of departed people represented by lights on the 2018 Christmas Memory Tree. The lighting ceremony for the tree - on the roof of Diamond Jenness Secondary School - was held on Dec. 13 by the school's Parent Action Committee. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Kim Rowe, left, and Brenna Beck look over a framed list of the names of departed people represented by lights on the 2018 Christmas Memory Tree. The lighting ceremony for the tree – on the roof of Diamond Jenness Secondary School – was held on Dec. 13 by the school’s Parent Action Committee.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

For 17 years, the tree – displayed in recent years on top of Diamond Jenness Secondary School – has been a way for people to remember and honour deceased loved ones with a light on the tree.

“It’s kind of something that touches the hearts of many. So I think it’s something that you can’t really let go once it starts, because it’s important to people that we think of our loved ones passing over and looking down on us and watching over us over Christmas,” said Jan McNeely, one of the organizers of the Christmas Memory Tree. “So it’s kind of been like a nice reminder that they’re still here.”

Each light on the tree is added for a pledge of $20 as a fundraiser for the Parent Action Committee (PAC) at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.

“This year we have 100 bulbs,” said McNeely, an educational assistant at Diamond Jenness and the school’s liaison with PAC. “Some years we’ve had 260. So it varies each year.”

The lighting of the tree generally takes place on the last Thursday before the beginning of the Christmas break at the school, which would be Dec. 20 this year. However, this year it took place a week earlier than usual because the Jill Taylor Memorial Hockey Tournament was set for Dec. 20

“The tree stays lit over the whole season,” said McNeely, noting the lights will be turned off Jan. 7.

Kim Rowe has been making pledges for lights on the tree every year since 2006 to remember loved ones who have died.

“It’s kind of just like a piece of them is still with us,” she said.

Rowe believes it’s a beautiful way to remember.

Plus, she said it’s a good donation to the Diamond Jenness PAC.

McNeely noted the names of the people remembered are displayed at Diamond Jenness throughout the year.

The names are also published in the Christmas edition of The Hub.

All of the money raised goes back into Diamond Jenness Secondary School, and can be used for a wide variety of things.

Teachers write proposals if they have ideas on how the money should be spent.

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