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Community turns out for tree-lighting event

Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital hosts the 27th annual celebration

Posted: December 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Proud dad Alan Armani and his son, Princeton, born just five months ago, pose with Mrs. Claus at the annual tree-lighting event at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital on Sunday.

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Some wore T-shirts and sandals to the 27th annual Community Tree Lighting celebration at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital on Sunday — but it didn’t stop hundreds from getting that holiday feeling.

The smell of hot chocolate and the sound of kids crunching candy canes made the moments preceding the tree-lighting at dusk all that more seasonal.

And to the joy of attendees, it did not rain, despite fears that showers experienced in the Santa Clarita Valley for the past three days would hit the hospital’s annual event.

For Miss Teen Santa Clarita Valley, Madi Summers, the annual tree-lighting event was nostalgic.

“I performed here when I was in elementary school,” she said. “I had a lot of fun then and I’m having a lot of fun now.”

Summers, who was posing for photos with her fellow reigning monarchy — Miss SCV Second Princess Yurico James, Junior Miss SCV First Princess Hannah Hobelman, Junior Miss SCV Spirit Melia Gomes and Junior Miss SCV Second Princess Megan Duncan — said helping out for the hospital was a worthwhile endeavor.

Parents and their kids lined up in front of about a dozen activity booths to make Christmas ornaments, write letters to Santa, sing karaoke and, of course, get some one-on-one time with the big guy himself.

At least one toddler was seen pulling Santa’s long white beard and more than a couple of teens were seen sharing their thoughts with him.

Kids also stopped for the four-legged celebrities visiting this year’s event.

Dogs specially trained to be “therapy dogs” for patients at Henry Mayo nosed their way through the shifting cluster of families moving from tent to tent.

“Patients can request a visit from a dog,” said therapy dog handler Lynne Pennala.

“The overwhelming thing we hear from patients is that it calms them,” she said, as kids petted therapy dog, Watcher.

“One patient told us this is better than anything the hospital gave them.”

At one booth, manned by the Congregation of Beth Shalom in Santa Clarita, kids were given a chance to color some Jewish symbols — a menorah, a dreidel — in time for Hanukkah.

“After the kids color them, we put magnets on them and put them in a box,” said Nathan Toveg. “Then we donate them to the patients at Henry Mayo.”

He and Ken Greenberg said the interest shown by children attending Sunday’s event was constant.

Many were familiar with the local tradition, now more than a quarter of century old, and so families made their way over to the house-high tree at sundown for the lighting.

With a chorus of “three, two, one” the tree was lit with decorative white lights, to a unanimous reception of “oooos” and “ahhhs” from the crowd.




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