0

Yearwood to highlight Tifton Tree of Life ceremony

Country Music Legend Tricia Yearwood and her sister Beth Bernard smile with their mom Gwen in this photo by Tift Regional Medical Center. Yearwood and Bernard will keynote the hospital’s Tree of Life Ceremony this year which is a fundraiser for the hospital’s oncology center and Hospice of Tiftarea.

Country Music Legend Tricia Yearwood and her sister Beth Bernard smile with their mom Gwen in this photo by Tift Regional Medical Center. Yearwood and Bernard will keynote the hospital’s Tree of Life Ceremony this year which is a fundraiser for the hospital’s oncology center and Hospice of Tiftarea.

TIFTON, Ga. -- Organizers of Tift Regional Medical Center's annual Tree of Life fundraiser have enlisted the help of country music legend Trisha Yearwood to keynote this year's event, officials say.

Yearwood and her sister, Tifton resident Beth Bernard, are slated to encourage donations and support for the hospital's Tree of Life program which benefits patients of both the TRMC Oncology Center and the Hospice of Tift Area.

For Yearwood and Bernard, hospice brought care and compassion in a time when their mother, Gwen, was nearing her end on this side of eternity last year after a bout with breast cancer.

"I really can't say enough about what they did for us," Bernard said. "When Trisha and I were moving mom from Oklahoma to Tifton, hospice had everything set up and ready for us when we walked in the door. We didn't have worry about anything. There's peace in that. There's a peace and comfort that comes with being able to focus on your loved one when the end is near."

Bernard said that they really had no idea the care that the people of hospice were able to provide, not only to their mother, but to their family as well.

"We had a vague idea about what hospice did, that they would come in and help mom and make sure she was comfortable and things like that, but I don't think we really had any idea about the ministry they would provide to us; how they would help us with the grieving process," Bernard says. "Even after she died we'd get follow-up calls offering advice and help for dealing with the loss."

Bernard says the hospice program is one that is free to those who need it which is why she and her sister are lending their names to help support it.

"Hospice is truly a gift for those in need. But like anything else it takes money and time to provide it free of charge," Bernard said. "And we hope that we can show people how important their services are and that people, in turn, will give because you never plan to use their services. When you need them, they're just there."

Patrons can support the program by purchasing lights in memory of a lost loved one or through direct donations the TRMC's Outreach and Development Department or at tiftregional.com through the end of December.

"The Tree of Life provides much needed aid to cancer, hospice or seriously-ill patients who are feeling financial pressures while undergoing treatment or care," said Christie Moore, director of Hospice of Tift Area. "The fund helps to pay for utility bills, groceries or special comforts."

While a solemn occasion, this year's Tree of Life ceremony will also be a celebration of life and a recognition of the holiday season, officials say.

"Tree of Life is a reflective event, but we also wanted it to be a celebration," Stacey Beckham, event coordinator, said. "We'll remember those we've loved and lost, honor those still with us and celebrate the joy of life."

To that end, the tree itself, which will be adorned with lights and placed at the front of the hospital, will be lit by a pull of a switch by family members of those who have received the services of hospice and the oncology center.

Following that solemn moment of reverance and reflection, the rest of the night will include live entertainment, a visit by Santa Claus, and even "real" snow on the hospital grounds. A complimentary meal is being served by the hospital's food services department.

TREE OF LIFE

WHAT: Tift Regional Medical Center's Tree of Life lighting ceremony

WHO: Keynotes by Trisha Yearwood and Beth Bernard

WHEN: 6 p.m., Dec. 13

WHERE: Tift Regional Medical Center front lawn, Tifton.