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Shining bright in memory of loved ones
The family of John Cambra had the honor of lighting the Hospice Tree as grandchildren, from left, Olivia and Gavin Berghorst as well as Breanna Cambra flip the big PG&E switch to light up the tree for the first time as his daughter Kim Berghorst looks on. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Jayme Moffatt and her dad, Chuck Saarlos, wiped away tears from their eyes as they watched the evergreen tree transform magically into a Tree of Lights.

They were not the only ones mesmerized by the colorful twinkling lights that adorned the towering sequoia at Doctors Hospital of Manteca on the corner of Cottage Avenue and East North Street Wednesday night during the 19th annual Hospice of San Joaquin Tree of Lights lighting ceremony jointly sponsored by the hospital and Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Nearly 200 others, by some estimates, who attended the moving event turned their eyes skyward as the family of the late John Cambra pushed the button that lighted the hundreds of light bulbs on the tree with each one memorializing a lost loved one. The three Cambra grandchildren who did the honors – Breanna, 16; Olivia, 8; and Gavin, 6 – were flanked by their mother Kimberly Berghorst and grandmother Karen Cambra.

“I’m grateful to Hospice of San Joaquin and what they do. They are incredible,” Karen said to the people who braved the cold and gathered at the street corner before the tree lighting.

She thanked the “wonderful” Hospice volunteers “who came and helped us get through the tough times.
“They are angels,” said Karen Cambra whose husband passed away this summer after a long illness.

The Tree of Lights will stay lit throughout the month of December and “will shine in memory and in honor of loved ones,” said Barbara Wagner, past president of Hospice of San Joaquin’s board of directors during her welcome speech.

Doctors Hospital Chief Executive Officer Mark Lisa who was one of the special guests for the evening encouraged everyone to spread the word about what Hospice of San Joaquin is all about and what they do. He recalled an incident last week at the hospital when a family member of a patient stopped and asked him if he knew anything about Hospice. Lisa said the person did not know he was a member of the hospital staff.

“I told him a little bit about Hospice,” Lisa recalled.

But that brief incident showed him that there are still many out there who don’t know anything about what Hospice is all about. Informing the public about Hospice services is part of the reason behind the annual tree-lighting ceremony, he said.

“We’ve been doing it for 19 years now but there are many more people that know nothing about Hospice,” Lisa said.

He encouraged those gathered at the ceremony to help spread the word and find out more about this community program.

“Google it, read up on Hospice, reach out to your neighbor and introduce them to the concept of Hospice. I challenge you to do that,” Lisa said.

He said knowing about Hospice becomes even more important as significant changes in health care begin to happen in 2011 and as the “continuum of care is going to become more important to all of us.”

Music during the brief ceremony was provided by the East Union High School Choir directed by Anne Talcott, with St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church deacon Harvey Parolari leading the invocation.

Representing the Pacific Gas and Electric Company whose staff decorates the tree every year was Dylan George who said the bulbs shining on the Tree of Lights are “energy-efficient LED lights.”

PG&E grants support the Tree of Lights as well as Hospice patient care.

Also honored during the evening ceremony was French Camp Elementary School first grader Francisco Romero who was a winner of the Tree of Lights Art program 2010 sponsored by Hospice of San Joaquin. His art work, along with five other winners from schools in San Joaquin County, are featured in Hospice of San Joaquin’s holiday cards for 2010 which were distributed to guests Wednesday evening.

Next to the Tree of Lights is a Memory Board List containing the names of loved ones honored by their families who made donations for the light bulbs. Those who wish to contribute to Hospice in memory of their loved ones may do so through Dec. 31. Donations are accepted either by mail, phone or online. The list on the Tree of Lights Memory Board will be updated every week.

For more information, call the Hospice of San Joaquin at (209) 957-3888 or send donations to Hospice of San Joaquin, 3888 Pacific Ave., Stockton CA 95204. You can also log on to

Chuck Saarlos, who lost his wife Sunny last year to breast cancer, and his daughter Jayme Moffatt said this was their first time to attend a Hospice tree lighting. Moffatt said her mother was under the care of Hospice of San Joaquin in Stockton for seven days before she passed away.

“They were wonderful,” she said of the Hospice staff.

As for the Tree of Lights lighting ceremony, this may be their first time to attend but “we’ll be back,” Moffatt said as she and her father wiped tears from their eyes.

“We’re going to drive by (the tree) many times,” she said.