Lights of Love to Shine Throughout the Holidays

WISCONSIN RAPIDS - Hundreds gathered November 18 to witness the 20th annual lighting of Aspirus Riverview Foundation’s Lights of Love tree. This year’s tree is located just north of Aspirus Riverview Hospital’s emergency room entrance and will remain lit throughout the holidays.

“It was a chilly Wisconsin evening,” said Sherry Evenson, Aspirus Riverview Foundation Executive Director. “But it certainly warmed my heart to see everyone who gathered for the outdoor ceremony and to know that many more were listening from home thanks to our partnership with WFHR Radio.”

With the help of Wisco Tree Team, a brand-new Lights of Love tree was presented, an oak that has stood on hospital grounds for more than 100 years. The evergreen trees that had held the honor for 18 years were lost in a July 2019 storm; and the 2020 Lights of Love trees were on the grounds of Aspirus Doctors Clinic. “We all know that this community tradition is much larger than any single tree,” said Evenson. “So, we gathered once again - not simply to light some decorations - but to remember and honor those who have had an impact on our lives and our community.”

The Lights of Love tradition was established 20 years ago by Aspirus Riverview Auxiliary. It continues to be championed by our community - a community that believes in preserving its access to local, state-of-the-art healthcare. A community that embodies the motto, “No One Fights Alone,” whether that be cancer, mental health, substance use, or food insecurity. Just as the century-old oak tree’s roots run deep, so too do the kindness and generosity of our community.

“Aspirus Riverview Foundation proudly carries on the Lights of Love tradition,” Evenson stated. Because of the generosity of our community, we are helping to make a true difference in the lives of those facing health challenges. Last year’s Lights of Love proceeds, along with community partnerships, supported programs such as:

  • home visits by Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department paramedics for high-risk patients after hospital discharge,
  • new clothes from the Aspirus Hospital Kindness Closet for patients who had their clothing torn or soiled during emergent care, and
  • customized exercise classes at the South Wood County YMCA to help cancer survivors regain their strength after treatment.

Sharing her family’s health journey of highs and lows during the ceremony, Michelle Kubisiak expressed her sincere appreciation for the support her family received through the foundation from all its donors. “Remember that without your deep commitment to this foundation, my family and many others would have had an additional burden to carry while already carrying so much,” said Kubisiak.

A highlight of this year’s ceremony was the reading of an essay titled “Giving,” by Jerzie Weiler. Jerzie won first place in a writing contest among sixth grade students from Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School. Her essay was a heartfelt reflection of her experience with giving during her little sister’s illness. “Complete strangers came out to support us… going out of their way to help my family,” Jerzie wrote. The ceremony held special meaning for Jerzie and her family, as it marked the anniversary of her sister’s passing. “Giving to me means offering support in any way, shape, or form that somebody needs,” she wrote. “It’s being kind.”

Those who gathered and tuned into WFHR also received a blessing from Pastor Tim Wenger and enjoyed moving performances by Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School’s Bel Canto choir, led by Julie Stoffel.

The Lights of Love tree will shine bright throughout the holiday season. It is a beacon of hope and an inspiration to our neighbors, friends, and families. The most beautiful things in life are people and memories, feelings, and moments. Let the lights and our community tradition remind us of that.

A link to the 2021 Lights of Love tree lighting ceremony video, courtesy of Wisconsin Rapids Community Media, can be found online at aspirus.org/aspirus-riverview-foundation-events.

Aspirus Riverview Foundation strives to support community-based efforts that align with improving the community's greatest health and wellness needs. If you wish to help make a difference in the health and wellness of our local community, visit the Aspirus Riverview Foundation’s website at aspirus.org/aspirus-riverview-foundation or call the Foundation Office at 715-421-7488.