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Tree of hope: Gilda's Club lights Blessing Tree for 23rd year

The Blessing Tree is a two-decade tradition where people can sponsor a light, bow or ornament to honor someone with cancer.

MOLINE, Ill. — On Tuesday, Dec. 7, Gilda's Club Quad Cities continued its 23-year-old tradition with the lighting the Blessing Tree in Davenport.

This year, the organization held its tree-lighting event virtually.

The 32-foot tree is filled with hundreds of lights, ornaments and bows. Each accessory represents a single person with cancer honored by a friend or family member.  

"It's really a way for people to pay tribute to not just people that are impacted by cancer, but maybe for those people that have gone through a cancer diagnosis," Executive Director of Gilda's Club Joy McMeekan said. "We have some people that do it as a thank you for people that showed them support during their time here. And so it's really a symbol for the community of hope."

The names go into a Blessing Tree journal as a keepsake for the organization members to remember honorees each year. 

"(Gilda's Club members) can look through and remember their loved ones and share those memories. So it's just kind of a fun time for people to gather," said McMeekan.

One Gilda's Club member undergoing cancer treatment said the event was very special to him.

"Seeing the tree gives me hope. The tree brings hope to a lot of us. A lot of people are looking for hope, and I'm looking for hope," Michael Zeglin said.

Zeglin remembered when his mother was a member of Gilda's Club and said he's grateful for the support they both received.  

"My mother was here; my mother had cancer. She came to Gilda's Club for support, and it was nice," said Zeglin.

Development Director Michele Darland said the tree is a reminder of love during a dark time.

"When you're in pain from chemotherapy, or you've just been given some really horrific news, you need to be reminded that someone loves you, someone is thinking of you," said Darland.

Names are still being taken for the blessing tree. The honoree's name will go in the Blessing Tree journal and receive a Christmas card.

The tree will stay lit through January 3, 2022.

Gilda's Club will start construction on its new location in January at Genesis Medical Center's West Campus in Davenport.

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