Annual Festival of Lights warms the night and participants' hearts

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:20

NEWTON — Lights twinkled, fireworks blossomed in the night sky, the aroma of hot cocoa filled the air and Christmas music sailed merrily along, as crowds gathered for the 20th annual C. Edward McCracken Festival of Lights on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Newton Medical Center. "It's for the community," said Mark Avondoglio, who is the chairman of the Newton Medical Center Foundation. C. Edward McCracken conceptualized the idea of beautifying and brightening the hospital atmosphere during the holiday season, after a stay himself at Newton Medical Center. Donors purchase a strand of lights, or light a whole tree, and, the proceeds benefit the foundation. Avondoglio said the event raises approximately $85,000 annually, and, will help defray costs for new MRI and CATscan machines, a new educational conference center, and single rooms. "It's so important for the community to come annd support events like this," said Bob McCracken, Chairman of the Newton Medical Center Advisory Board. "All monies raised stay in the community. Over the last 20 years, we have raised $1.2 million, with minimum expense ratios." Dr. David Mattes, Director of the Emergency Department, who has been at Newton Medical Center since 1988, said, "It's always been a great hospital. They've always had good caring nurses, and doctors, and kept up with technology." Mattes led the group in hitting the switch to illuminate the trees around the property. "It [the event] gives everybody a chance to mingle with each other to support the hospital, and, it's probably the best fireworks you'll ever see." Crowds packed the hospital lobby to warm up with coffee, and cocoa, and munch on hors d'oeuvres. Outdoors, carolers from the Pope John and Newton High Schools, Halsted Middle School, and Green Hills School sang and Mark Hontz played the bagpipes. There were games, holiday characters, and Santa in the children's tent, and, the massive fireworks display closed out the evening.