Shining a light on a 30 year tradition.
In 1986, the Memorial Hospital Women’s Auxiliary set out to create an event to honor local veterans. The event would be held on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and serve a dual purpose of raising funds for local causes. With this idea, Love Light, was born.
Veterans were also involved in many aspects of the ceremony, from assisting the Manitowoc Fire Department with hanging the lights, to giving a 21-gun salute.
“To this day, the veterans groups are still a large part of our event,” said Mary Manis, who has served as event chairperson since the beginning. “They are a close-knit community and we love having them participate. This year, our official tree lighters are a husband and wife who both served in the armed forces.”
Thirty years has brought some major changes. In 1991, Memorial Hospital and Holy Family Hospital merged to form Holy Family Memorial, but the commitment to the event continued. When the Reed Avenue location closed its doors, the HFM Harbor Town campus brought new opportunities to expand the HFM Love Light program. The new location allowed for additional light features and the ability to synchronize the light display to music.
To this day, the veterans groups are still a large part of our event. They are a close-knit community and we love having them participate.
Each year, Mary and the HFM Fund Development team look at building on the traditions of the past and expanding the program. This year’s event features new LED lights and new lighting effects.
“Some of our old decorations were starting to show their wear, so we’ve added some new features to our display this year,” said Manis. “The new parts are outstanding, but we like to keep parts of our original display too, like the American flag which has been used since the beginning.”
Symbolic lights and strings of lights are not only purchased in memory or honor of veterans, but anyone, living or deceased, who loved ones wish to remember during the holiday season. The funds raised go to a variety of local causes, which this year include community health initiatives, veterans health, and the HFM Providence Fund.
Though the event has evolved throughout the last three decades, one thing has remained the same. Mary Manis is still an instrumental part of coordinating the event. “My hope is that this event has made an impression on young people, and that a new generation is able to carry it well into the future,” said Manis. “But most importantly, I hope it continues to be a way in which we can remember veterans, especially those who are now gone. Thank you to everyone who has supported this program over the years.”