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Hospice uses 'Love Light' trees to honor patients

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jeff Sikorovsky has led fundraising efforts for the state's HospiceCare Love Light Tree campaign for nearly a decade, but it's not the dollar amounts that stick with him.

"I remember one year a woman was just standing there looking at the trees, holding herself together. I asked her if she needed anything and she said 'no' and just started to smile. She said, 'You guys took care of my sister this year. Thank you so much,'" Sikorovsky said. "A lot of people have a personal connection to Hospice, and you really get the feeling that it meant something to them."

"The best is when you have a little boy or girl walk in with a few coins and drop them on the table because their mawmaw or pawpaw was a patient with us."

The 30th Pearl Anniversary Love Light Tree campaign kicked off last week at the Charleston Town Center Mall, and aims to bring in donations for end-of-life care throughout the state.

HospiceCare West Virginia serves more than 2,500 patients and their families each year in 16 counties across the state.

The project allows donors to hang an ornament in honor of a loved one who has been or is currently a Hospice patient.

This year, Love Light trees have been erected at the Town Center, at several banks in Lewisburg and at the Boone County Hospice office.

Though Sikorovsky has worked the event for more than eight years, he hasn't forgotten the stories of the families he's met along the way.

He has two large bags of paper ornaments at his office that he can't let go of.

"I can't throw them out. I just can't do it," he said. "Someone took the time to remember their loved one with these little pieces of paper. It's a special time of year, and the special part is that people continue to not only give to us, but continue to let us come into their homes in their time of need. We're here to help people."

The project is HospiceCares' most successful fundraiser and typically brings in about $80,000 each year.

Sikorovsky hopes to raise a record of $100,000 this year.

"I just have a feeling this year is going to be one of our better years," he said.

BB&T employees Marie Cook and Sheila Brisendine manned the line of Love Light Trees outside of the Gap at the Town Center Mall on Black Friday.

"They're going through something right now," Cook said of the donors she'd met by Friday afternoon. "They're living it now with their family members or they've had somebody that was with Hospice when they passed away, and they care about the organization."

Donations can be made at the Love Light Tree locations or can be sent by mail to HospiceCare at 1606 Kanawha Blvd. Charleston, W.Va. 25387.

Donations can also be made by phone by calling 304-768-8523.

For more information, visit hospicecarewv.org. Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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