The Joint Base Lewis-McChord community welcomed the holiday season with two annual Christmas tree lighting ceremonies Dec. 5. A third took place Dec. 2 at McChord Field.
The lighting of the Douglas fir outside Jensen Family Health and Fitness Center on Lewis Main and the tree inside the Madigan Army Medical Center were celebrated with music, Santa Claus and hot chocolate.
Private First Class Charles Hall, 170th Military Police Company, and his family had never attended a holiday tree lighting ceremony.
It was a new experience for the Halls, who joined the crowd outside Jensen for the festive JBLM community event celebrated every year.
Were not having to leave the base and drive 10 to 15 miles, Hall said. Though there were holiday ceremonies available at surrounding communities, the Halls felt most comfortable celebrating on the installation.
This is our home, Hall said.
Families gathered around the tree as Miles King and Friends performed holiday songs, while children and adults sipped hot chocolate.
JBLM Commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. described the tree lighting ceremony as a chance to reflect on the past and look toward the future.
Those lights signify the hopes of 2014 and they pay tribute to the blessings in 2013, Hodges said.
Children were invited to help Hodges turn the red, white and blue lights on. And as the singers finished performing Here Comes Santa Claus, good ol Saint Nick arrived in front of Jensen escorted by members of JBLM Fire and Emergency Services on his red sleigh with candy canes and presents.
Santa made his way to the AFC Arena down Liggett Avenue and joined Mrs. Claus to meet with families whose children waited to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.
A Nintendo 3DS, said Victor Starr, 8.
And I want a green bike, because that is my favorite color, and I want a blue scooter, said his younger brother, Zacharias, 3.
Parents were happy to take their families to the tree lighting and after-party as a way to spend time with family as well as others in their neighborhood and JBLM community.
It gets you in the holiday spirit when you see everybody and have hot cocoa and see Santa, Heather Forsyth said.
Inspiring children light Madigan tree
Helping to light the Madigan Army Medical Center Christmas tree was a milestone in young Audry Hills life. Sitting in her wheelchair, the easy going preschooler who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, flipped a switch to officially welcome the holiday season at the military hospital Dec. 5.
But the milestone wasnt the tree-lighting honor.
Audry celebrated her third birthday Dec. 2. Her mother, Spc. Kayla Hill, said 95 percent of children who have Audrys disease never reach the age of 3.
A typical 3-year-old who sasses me and fights with her sister, as Kayla called her, Audry was wide-eyed as the tree lit up.
Audrys disease causes extreme muscle weakness, and although she cant stand, jump or walk, Audry considers herself vertically challenged and not physically challenged, her mother said.
She just thinks shes short, Kayla said.
The disease isnt paralyzing in that Audry can still feel her legs, Kayla said, but she just cant use them. And even though nobody has beaten the disease, Kayla said the familys perception of Audrys illness is a positive one.
Shes living with SMA shes not dying, Kayla said.
Audry and Madigan pediatric patient Kye Johnson joined Madigan commander Col. Ramona Fiorey in the hospitals medical mall for the tree-lighting ceremony, which included caroling, refreshments and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, who distributed candy canes.
The ceremony, an annual tradition at Madigan, also served to honor Madigan service members who are deployed and are unable spend the holidays with their families, Fiorey said.