For most residents of Northwest Indiana, the holiday season brings joy and happiness. However, for those who have health issues or who are grieving the loss of a family member, the holidays can be a challenging time.

Fortunately, the hospitals of Community Healthcare System offer programs to reach out and remember our loved ones who have passed on and offer hope and health to many others in the community.

Hearts of Hope

At St. Mary Medical Center, located in Hobart, the Hearts of Hope program represents donations made to Cardiovascular Research in honor or memory of loved ones to help fund vital research for heart disease.

Supervisor Cherie Smyth says that the program is a champion of patients who have survived and recovered, as well as a memorial to those who have passed on.

“Community Healthcare System is involved in several research programs that bring in new and innovative treatments for cardiovascular disease,” she says. “That involves heart disease, but also involves PAD (peripheral artery disease), issues within the vascular system all through the body, and prevention tactics to help stave off progression of the disease.”

A Valentine’s holiday tree bathed in crimson lights illuminates the hope and memories of all who donate to the Hearts of Hope.

“The clinical trials that we participate in help us to stay on the forefront of technology and help our patients recover from their diseases,” Smyth explains. “The donations we collect further our education and outreach efforts with free screenings in the community."

Wings of Healing

At St. Catherine Hospital, located in East Chicago, the Wings of Healing program allows participants to honor or memorialize a loved one during the holiday season. For a $10 donation, an angel is hung on the Wings of Healing Tree at the hospital.

“Personalized angel cards are sent to honorees or families to commemorate the event,” explains Minerva Pagan, program coordinator. “On the second Tuesday of December (December 8 this year), we have a program to honor and remember the donors. Our speakers touch on the importance of giving.”

For a $25 donation, all donors also receive a beautiful angel ornament. All Wings of Healing honorees and memorials are recorded in the official Wings of Healing Book.

“The donations from Wings of Healing support St. Catherine Hospital’s scholarship program,” Pagan says. “Employees, or family members of employees, receive financial assistance pursuing education in the medical field.”

Lights of Life

The Community Cancer Research Foundation, located in Munster, hosts the annual Lights of Life program. Each brilliant light on the Lights of Life trees at Community Hospital shines in honor or memory of the special people who light up the lives of loved ones.

Mary Shields, administrator of the Community Cancer Research Foundation, says, “The Lights of Life program started in 2000 to raise funds for breast cancer research. Over time, the program evolved to include all types of cancers.”

Donors purchase lights to honor or memorialize a loved one who has suffered from cancer. The donations support cancer research at the hospital. A larger donation will send a pink breast cancer pin or a lavender cancer awareness pin to a specific person.

A tree lighting ceremony is held at Community Hospital every December. “It’s a very touching ceremony,” Shields says. “Many of the people who attend are survivors of cancer. Others attend to remember a loved one who lost their battle. And others who are still fighting come to draw support from others.”

Support in Times of Need

Between the three programs, those who are suffering from health issues can come together to draw strength from others who have waged the same battle. The programs can help break through the darkness that overwhelms them.

“These programs are really meaningful and emotional,” Shields says. “It’s touching to see how so many can come together to support each other in times of need.”

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