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The main lobby of Carroll Hospital center was packed Monday evening, the 15 or so rows of chairs quickly overflowing to a standing room crowd. The lobby was ringed with decorated Christmas trees as the Old Line Statesmen Chorus began to sing, their harmonies swelling into holiday song before the official illumination of the Tree of Lights outside in the hospital meditation garden, seen through the lobby windows.

It was the 23rd annual Tree of Lights ceremony at Carroll Hospital, as well as the kick off event for the week long Season to Remember, a joint fundraising effort by the Carroll Hospital Center Auxiliary and Carroll Hospice, according to Mary Richards, director of volunteer services for the hospital. The finale will be the lighting of more memorial trees at Carroll Hospice on Monday, Dec. 8.

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"Several years ago, we joined forces with the hospice fundraising group and they have a memorial tree, and Pet memorial tree," Richards said. "There can be some confusion, but it boils down to our helping hospice and hospital and the community."

As in years past, Richards said the tree at the hospital will remain lighted until the new year. While the tree is lighted, people can purchase lights and ornaments to be hung on the tree in honor or memory of individuals, families and groups, with the proceeds benefiting the hospital. In this Tree of Lights program, its costs $5 for a light for an individual, $10 for families, and $100 for an organization, such as the American Legion.

"We also have angels that are put on the tree, and those are $50," Richards said. "We try to provide a variety of amounts that are usually within peoples budgets."

Lights and angels and can be purchased and dedicated by filling out a form at Carroll Hospital Center or calling volunteer services at 410-871-7280 to have a form mailed.

When the hospital auxiliary joined forces with Hospice, Richards said they also created a new event, the Festival of Trees a silent auction of Christmas trees that benefit Carroll Hospice. There is no connection with the Festival of Trees in Westminster TownMall, which benefits The Shepherd's Staff.

"Around the [hospital] lobby, are 30 some trees of various themes that people have decorated and they are all up for bid," Richards said.

In 2013, Richards said the hospital auxiliary raised $6,187 through the Tree of Lights, while the Festival of Trees raised $15,000 for Carroll Hospice.

At the Tree Lighting Ceremony Monday evening, the names of those people, families and organizations being honored with a light were read.

Roger Litchfield was one of those in attendance. He had dedicated a light to his late mother, Helen May Litchfield, who passed away Sept. 10 at the Carroll Hospice Dove house.

"I thought [the ceremony] was thoughtful," Litchfield said. "Quite thoughtful."

Karen Durilla is a member of the hospital auxiliary Tree of Lights Committee, who said the tree lighting is a way to bring the focus of the holidays back to the ones we love, whether still with us or having passed on.

"I just think it's an excellent way to start out the holiday season," she said. "Remembering loved ones. That's what the season is about, more so than gifts and things like that."

Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 jon.kelvey@carrollcountytimes.com.

If you go

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What: A Season to Remember

When: Holiday tree auction Dec. 1 through Dec. 9, Carroll Hospice memorial tree lighting 7 p.m. Dec. 8

Where: Tree auction at Carroll Hospital Center, 200 Memorial Ave., Westminster; Carroll Hospice tree lighting at Dove House, 292 Stoner Ave., Westminster

Cost: Carroll Hospice tree lighting free; memorial lights for Carroll Hospital Center Tree of Lights are $5 individuals, $10 to honor families and $100 to honor organizations. Angel ornaments are $50.

For more, call 410-871-7220.

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