Newton hospital prepares to light up the holidays

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    NEWTON-When the Christmas trees are lit at Newton Memorial Hospital's Festival of Lights, Theresa Wilkisson can keep her eye on one tree n one that was lit up with her donation in honor of the hospital she says saved her and her husbands' lives. "It's a miracle we're both alive," said Wilkisson, a Sparta resident whose donations have been lighting trees at the hospital's annual holiday fundraiser for the past four years. "It's a joy doing it." Wilkisson's husband, Frank, was hospitalized four years ago with a serious condition that required help from 28 doctors and a 51-day hospital stay, she said. That year the Wilkissons donated four lit trees, in honor of the hospital staff members who Theresa says saved his life eight times and in honor of "his will to survive." "We were very grateful to everyone, from the front door on in," Wilkisson said. Since then, she and her husband both have required help from the hospital because of various medical problems and they're quick to sing the praises of Newton Memorial's doctors, nurses and staff. This year, the Wilkissons will join others in Sussex County in making donations to light up one of the trees that line the entrance to the hospital in the 13th annual Festival of Lights on Nov. 20, the largest fundraiser of the year for the Newton Memorial Hospital Foundation. "It's a fun, family atmosphere," said Beth Malkin, hospital spokesman. "To a lot of people, it's a way of kicking off the holiday season." This year's proceeds will go toward building a new Heart Center, a planned $6.4 million 13,00-square-foot, two-story addition that will feature a cardiac catheterization lab. The lab, the first in Sussex County, will use diagnostic technology to help detect and diagnose patients with vascular and coronary heart disease. Last year's event raised $83,000 and went toward the new emergency room project, Malkin said. Donors can give $30 for a string of lights or $200 to fully light a tree, in memory or in honor of someone. Sponsor donors may give at various levels from $250 to a new $1,000 "Illuminator" level. All donors are invited to the event, which begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m. in the hospital lobby, and moves outside to the tree lighting at 6:30 p.m. and a fireworks display. The annual event is sponsored by the Smith-McCracken & Wood Funeral Homes and is named after the late C. Edward McCracken, a trustee for the hospital foundation who began the tree-lighting tradition years ago to brighten the holidays for the hospital's patients and their families. Donations may be made through Nov. 5. More information is available by contacting the foundation at 973-579-8309 or by logging onto