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Remembering lost loved ones this Christmas (7 photos)

The Hospice Wellington Tree of Remembrance campaign runs from December 1 – 23 at Stone Road Mall
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The Holidays can be a difficult time for people grieving the loss of a loved one and the staff and volunteers from Hospice Wellington are hoping their annual Tree of Remembrance campaign will help people cope with their grief while supporting a good cause.

“It is an important campaign for Hospice Wellington,” said Phil Gourlay, events coordinator for Hospice Wellington. “What we do is sell tree ornaments for $10 in the mall. People can either take the ornament home with them or they can put it on one of our trees in memory of a loved one.”

Buying an ornament and hanging it on the tree has become a tradition for many in the community over the past 15 years.

“People put this on their Christmas shopping checklist,” said Tet Tacoma, a palliative care volunteer at Hospice Wellington. “They buy an ornament and hang it on the tree then check it off on their list. By the end of the season the tree is full.”

People are encouraged to write a Christmas message on the ornament tag and to share their feelings of grief with Hospice volunteers.

“It used to be called the Angel Tree,” said Pat Stuart executive director for Hospice Wellington. “This is to honour and remember people who have passed but it’s also to bring awareness and education to the public. We have some handy tips here for people because the holiday time is difficult for people and we want to reach out and help them.”

Local realtor Andra Arnold has sponsored the campaign for the last two years.

“I have lost many loved ones and I had the good fortune of being with them when they passed away,” said Arnold. “I have clients, friend and family members that have used Hospice and it is unbelievable what they provide for our community.”

Representatives from Guelph City Council, the fire department, and the Guelph Police Service joined Arnold for the launch of the campaign Friday at Stone Road Mall.

“I have a few people I am remembering today,” said Guelph city councilor Karl Wettstein, “Obviously my parents but also my brother. The thing that always hits me about Hospice is how little people appreciate what a critical part it is of our entire social, medical network. They only get about half their money from their sources of funding and 45 per cent comes from donations. I think they have done an outstanding job in Guelph.”

Guelph Fire Chief John Osborne had official and personal reasons to be there as well.

“For a number of years the fire department has been helping out Hospice Wellington,” said Osborne. “This year with the loss of my mother-in-law I had the opportunity to actually experience what they do and see what a very caring group of people they are.”

Police Chief Jeff DeRuyter stressed the important contribution Hospice makes to the community including active and retired officers.

“We have been supporting Hospice for years with the funds raised through our association golf tournament,” said DeRuyter. “We get a couple hundred golfers so a significant amount of money has been raised but it is more than that. In the last five years I lost my father and my mother-in-law and in the last year we have lost a number of retirees too early in life who battled cancer. So, it’s near and dear to our members and we will continue to support Hospice and the valuable services they provide to our community.”