November 18, 2012 at 10:24 PM
NEWTON, NJ – Twenty-one years ago Ed McCracken and Mary Ann Mathias got very cold stringing lights on Christmas trees in mid-November, Mathias recalled Saturday, Nov. 17, at the 21st Annual Festival of Lights at Newton Medical Center.
Mathias was selling chances on a night out in New York City.
Other activities during the evening included a children’s tent with airbrush tattoos, spin art, coloring, creating ornaments, balloon animals and visits with Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The select choir from Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta sang carols in the front courtyard of the hospital.
All these activities were added to the original lighting of trees along the hospital driveway, accompanied by cookies and hot chocolate, JoEllen McCracken Hazan recalled in a talk to attendees in the hospital lobby. Both the children’s tent, and a donor reception were added two years ago.
“My dad had a vision to line the driveway with trees at holiday time,” she said.
St. Paul’s Abbey donated the first trees and McCracken and a group of volunteers, including Mathias and a sometimes reluctant Hazan and her brothers, trimmed them.
“During the fifth year, he decided fireworks should be added,” Hazan said.
“This is all about the support of a wonderful community,” she said noting the medical center has grown from a small community hospital to be, “part of a world-class health system.” This year’s proceeds will go toward a capital improvement program that will include an MRI Suite, patient care space, a new CT Scanner, and an OT/PT/Wound Care area.
“This started with a dream and a string of lights,” Hazan said.
She acknowledged her mother, Shirley, her husband and sons and noted, “dad is always here in spirit.”
Also commenting on the changes in the hospital in the 11 years he has been here was Dr. Robert Masci, co-chairman of the festival this year, and the chief of cardiology.
He recalled when he started, although the emergency room was good, it was small, not well lit, with small spaces for patients. He said he saw a patient, who required cardiac catheterization, and was on hemo-dialysis, neither of which could be done for him at Newton. Now, in the Charles Tice Cardiac Center they have a cath lab, and dialysis is available both on and off site. And the ER is state-of-the-art.
“We couldn’t do it without the support of the community and especially the foundation,” Masci said.
Masci’s co-chair, Michael Holenstein, was emcee of the event. Rev. Jennifer Cho gave the invocation. Jim Duke, a retired New Jersey State Trooper, was bagpiper, and piped the assemblage into the courtyard to watch Shirley McCracken light all the trees, and hear the Newton High School Choir sing. Fireworks followed the lighting.
Shirley McCracken and Hazan are on the festival committee along with Robert E. McCracken and James W. McCracken. Other members are Mathias, Mark Avondoglio, Diane Brennan, E. Jane Brown, David Mattes, M.D., Cathy Romano, Megan Sandow, Dawn Sullivan and John Ursin, esq.
The committee acknowledged Ward’s Flowers and Gifts for donating poinsettias, and offered thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Martin, the medical Auxiliary, Becco, Green Township “Glee,” Halsted School, the Newton Police and Fire Department, Pope John’s Choir, RoNetco Supermarkets, Sparta Limousine, and Windy Brow Farms.
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