It may feel like the Grinch stole Christmas, with so many beloved traditions moving from in-person to online, but – like the cheerful residents of Whoville – organizers are finding the silver lining in these changed circumstances.

The Cullman Regional Hospital Foundation’s Lights of Love fundraiser has been held for 29 years, and this marks the first one done virtually.

“We wanted to put safety first and opted for a virtual program,” said Foundation Executive Director Maria Stanford.

Foundation President and Daystar Church pastor Jerry Lawson emceed the event in video streamed on Face Book. The program was pre-recorded and included musical productions. Throughout the video, the names of those being remembered or honored scrolled on the screen. The event honored families impacted by COVID-19, those who have died from the disease, the healthcare workers at Cullman Regional and all the Cullman Regional Hospice patients who died this year.

“Our virtual Lights of Love program pays tribute to those who have passed away during the year, and all the proceeds will go to help purchase COVID-19 testing equipment that our community so badly needs,” said Lawson.

Stanford said she can see the foundation broadcasting future Lights of Love events online, even after the pandemic ends.

“I think it went extremely well,” she said. “More people had the opportunity to view the program and be a part of it this year than maybe were able to attend in the past.”

Lawson said the virtual event was a success for the Foundation.”The community really came together and partnered with the hospital and it’s going to help a lot of people.”

The foundation is continuing to take donations throughout the month at or by calling 256-737-2565.

The Cullman city officials saw the rise in COVID-19 cases and knew they had to make changes to their Christmas celebration.

“We made the decision it just warranted being cautious,” said Parks and Recreation Director Zac Wood. “The mayor and council wanted to do something, so we decided to do a virtual tree lighting program.”

Like the hospital foundation, the city pre-recorded portions of the program.

“We started recording on Monday,” said Wood. They included the council, mayor and other city officials. “We wanted some folks that are visible in the community to be part of it,” he said.

The program, streamed on FaceBook, also included Santa granting a few wishes and concluded with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Depot Park.

“This doesn’t and never will replace people being together,” said Wood, “But I can see us doing something virtual for those who can’t be here. It really opens it up to people who can’t be here.”

In addition, anyone who missed it the first time can go back and watch it again. “We’ll probably get more viewership the rest of the month,” said Wood.

Amy Henderson can be reached at 256-734-2131 Ext. 216.

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