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UPMC tree lighting boosts spirits

About 60 people attended the tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday at UPMC Altoona. Mirror photo by William Kibler

UPMC Altoona’s Christmas tree lighting provided a brief respite from the difficulty of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday.

Seeing the tall tree lit up in the lobby “helps bring your spirits up,” said Bonnie Kuny, who works for environmental services.

Last year, employees could attend only virtually, while this year, dozens came in person.

“It’s been a tough fight,” UPMC Altoona President Jan Fisher said in a speech to about 60 people who attended, including many in scrubs, like Kuny.

The “light at the end of the tunnel” may not be apparent yet, “but we know there will be a light,” Fisher said.

“Take time to rejuvenate yourself,” she advised the workers. “Take time with your families.”

She then thanked them, repeatedly.

Hospital leaders, including the medical staff and board, appreciate what they do and think about them every day, Fisher said.

A kind touch, a good meal, comforting words, a clean room — even tears — are all gifts employees routinely give to patients “at their most vulnerable” in this “unprecedented time,” said Dr. Grant Hormell, senior vice president for medical affairs, who dressed as Santa.

It’s humbling to witness their “spirit of year-round giving,” he said.

Musician Vince Eilenberger, who came at the invitation of his friend, Director of Pastoral Care Tony Conrad, played the piano and sang carols.

When he appeared to be finished, someone asked for more, and Eilenberger played several more, including “Silent Night.”

“It felt really, really good,” Eilenberger said. “It was nice to look up and see all the faces looking back at me,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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