BY GENE GARAYGORDOBIL Contributing writer
Before looking ahead to the holidays, the annual Light Up a Life tree-lighting ceremony encourages the community to take a look back at the lives of those who have touched our own.
The 17th annual event, sponsored by Hoffmann Hospice, takes place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Participants who donate a minimum of $10 can have the name of a loved one read during the ceremony, said Cindy Lyday, development assistant at Hoffmann.
Hoffmann Hospice 17th annual Light Up a Life tree-lighting ceremony
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: The Marketplace, 9000 Ming Ave.
Sponsorship: Individual light sponsors are invited to make a minimum donation of $10 in the name of their loved one.
"It's anyone who has passed away, or those honored who are still living," Lyday said. "For a $100 donation, you can receive a commemorative ornament that night."
Lyday is looking forward to the event, her first, having joined Hoffmann nine months ago.
"From what I am told, it is a really uplifting experience," she said. "Participants sing Christmas songs. It's not a sad time at all. It's really about remembrance."
Steve Knaggs, 59, of Bakersfield, has been a volunteer at Hoffmann Hospice for 11 years and has attended many of the treelighting events.
Knaggs said choosing to volunteer his time in hospice care had partly to do with the way his father and aunt passed away, neither of whom had used hospice services.
"It was not very desirable, the way they passed, and with my kids grown, I thought it was time to volunteer in a way to serve the community," he said. "I heard from a friend who had volunteered at Hoffmann that it was a great organization."
Knaggs described the treelighting event as solemn and soothing.
"It helps you bring back your loved ones," he said. "You can concentrate on your thoughts and you have a chance to be with others who have experienced the same thing.
"It's a good time before the holidays to remember those who have passed," Knaggs said. "It's very calming -- everyone is lighting candles, sitting listening to names. It brings people together, and is a very uplifting experience."
Knaggs retired from the Kern County Fire Department "and pretty much volunteers full time now," he said.
The focus of hospice is compassionate care that enables patients to continue an alert, pain-free life surrounded by those they love. Hospice provides care that includes the family in all decisions.
Lyday said about 500 people attended last year's event, and the program goes about an hour.
The Kern County chapter of the Sweet Adelines -- an international organization designed to promote and educate women in barbershop singing -- will kick off the festivities.
Former local TV anchorwoman Robin Mangarin-Scott will serve as master of ceremonies, and the guest speaker is Rick Riley, CEO of Townsend Designs, who will discuss the passing of his own mother.
Then participants will light the candles, and names of those being memorialized and honored will be read aloud.
The Christmas tree is already set up near the fountain at The Marketplace, where Tuesday's ceremony will take place.
Then Tom Hoffmann, who with his wife, Beth, founded Hoffmann Hospice, will turn on the tree lights.
"Symbolically, every name read is represented by the lights up there," Lyday said.
A table will be set up at The Marketplace for last-minute additions to the list of names. Cookies and cocoa will be available for everyone.
"It's truly a time for someone to reflect on someone else's life," Lyday said.