‘Judy Lannin Christmas Wish Tree’ lit for 20th year at WDMH

The late Judy Lannin's family hold her image after the Judy Lannin Christmas Wish Tree is lit at WDMH. From left: Brian Lannin, Aaron Lannin and Andrea Lannin. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — The Christmas Wish Tree at Winchester District Memorial Hospital has new ornaments and a new name in honour of the late volunteer who spearheaded the popular fundraising initiative 20 years ago. The special honour for Judy Lannin took place at the tree’s annual lighting ceremony, Dec. 12 in the hospital lobby.

In a special touch hearkening back to Lannin’s original vision, the tree is once again festooned with real Christmas balls — eliminating the paper-only tags that had replaced traditional ornaments as a time-saver a few years ago. (The Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation has come up with a special, streamlined form that simplifies the process of affixing a name, on paper, to an actual ornament.)

The Christmas Wish Tree program offers the chance to make a donation in memory, or in honour, of someone near and dear to the donor’s heart. “The simple act of writing your loved one’s name down on a piece of paper, can be overwhelming,” explained Foundation Managing Director Kristen Casselman at the event. “You want to use your best penmanship and be sure that it’s just perfect. In that ten seconds it takes to write out that name, memories might come flooding back, a faint smile might cross your face and you might feel happy because it happened or sad because it’s over.

“Your love, memories and commitment are what make this program special and successful. Thank you.”

A kind-hearted and determined WDMH team member, the tree’s namesake started the program 20 years ago. A granite memorial stone was also unveiled in her honour, to be placed at the foot of the tree in the roundabout at the front of the hospital.

Lannin’s family attended the event and noted that staff at WDMH were a second family to her. “They worked together — not for her — but with her. She knew everyone. She knew their families and she took an interest in their lives,” noted husband Brian Lannin.

Her daughter Andrea spoke of her generosity. “She always instilled the gift of giving. That was important to her. Not necessarily the giving of material items, but giving of yourself.”

The Seaway Valley Singers enthusiastically sang O Christmas Tree, among other carols, for the occasion. Unfortunately, due to weather, the students from Morrisburg Public School were unable to make it, but they’re sending their 200 empathy cards to the hospital next week to be distributed to patients. The hospital intends to welcome them back next year.

Another highlight of the evening was having Gaye Benoit and her three children in attendance. The Crysler resident wrote the Wish Tree direct mail letter this year, sharing her connection with WDMH since 1955.

The Foundation has expressed special thanks to Scotiabank, Presenting Sponsor. Local branches in Chesterville, Morrisburg, Osgoode, Russell, and South Mountain are accepting Christmas Wish Tree donations on the Foundation’s behalf. Already, more than 40 donations have been made at the branches.

Gold sponsors include Boom 101.9FM/Fresh Radio 104.5FM, Third High Farms. Our Silver Sponsors this year include JED Express, Pommier Jewellers, WC Robinson and Sons, and Traiteur la Bonne Bouffe. At the Bronze level, Ault & Ault Law Offices, Collins Barrow WCM LLP, HomeTown TV12, Louis’ Restaurant in Chesterville, Ontario Power Generation, Ted Moran & sons, Wells Ford, and Udder Comfort have chosen to sponsor, many as repeat sponsors. The Foundation asks that patrons consider supporting these “generous and community-minded businesses with your holiday shopping needs.”

Wish Tree proceeds go to the Family Care Fund to help ensure that WDMH can continue to provide compassionate, excellent health care – close to home.

In the video clip below, members of Lannin’s family light the tree after reminiscing about Judy Lannin and her connection to the annual Christmas Wish Tree campaign. WDMH Foundation Managing Director Kristen Casselman offers some words, followed by the Seaway Valley Singers’ rendition of O Christmas Tree.


Gaye Benoit of Crysler, writer of this year’s Wish Tree campaign appeal letter, poses with her children, including Paul Benoit (left). Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

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