Approximately 1,200 luminaries lit in remembrance of loved ones lined the walkways of the Common and the surrounding sidewalks Saturday evening for the Circle of Hope’s 11th Annual Luminary Night.
The event was the most successful to date, something that the COH members credit to the town's commitment to helping each other.
“This town always comes through, whether it’s helping the Circle of Hope or helping a neighbor - tonight is just a clear indication," Circle of Hope President Timothy McDonough said. "We sold the most luminary bags we ever have, the weather’s perfect for operating, I think a lot of blessings were answered tonight and it is really what the season is all about.”
“You look around, see the faces of the people looking at the bags remembering people or just thinking about the season. They’re smiling, they’re happy. You know there is a little bit of sadness because we’re remembering a lot of people but it is just the fact that all of this money is going to help people and that makes everybody feel so good, you know it really does,” McDonough continued.
Circle of Hope Board Members spoke about other fundraising events held throughout the year, Dancing with the Norwood Stars and the Annual November Dinner Show, but Luminary Night is an event the entire town can take part in. Those events range from $30 to $40 for a ticket, but a luminary is just $5, resulting in an impressive turnout for the annual celebration.
Founder of The Circle of Hope Lee Kennedy pointed out a group of family and friends who drove from New Hampshire to attend the event in honor of local resident, Patricia Malley. Malley lived in West Roxbury but has family in Norwood and when Patricia passed the Malleys asked for donations in Patricia’s honor to The Circle of Hope. This family raised over $200 for the Luminary Night with over forty luminaries in memory of a mother, friend and grandmother who was famous for baking cookies and whose grandchildren wrote of their love of doing puzzles with her and hearing her read them stories.
The walkway leading up to the Veterans' Memorial Statue was lined with luminaries remembering a young life that was cut short, Norwood resident Kevin Morrison. Kennedy said before luminary forms were available to the public, people were calling and asking for luminaries for Morrison.
“The first luminaries we received were for Kevin, I have a stack of them,” Kennedy said a few weeks ago. “It’s awful but it will be so beautiful."
Board member Brendan Gearty spoke about the growth of Luminary Night since it began eleven years ago.
“Take a look around, these are no longer bags on every sidewalk crack these are walls, they’re walls," he said. "It’s crazy to think about where we’ve come from since the first year to where we are now.”
Board member Kathy St. Cyr said it is her dream to see the Town Hall, St. Catherine’s Church and the United Church of Norwood surrounded with luminaries, to which Gearty said, “Why not? I don’t see why we can’t do it!”
Kennedy said her phone was still ringing off the hook the morning of the event with people inquiring about purchasing luminaries.
“It is just amazing, just amazing,” she said.
“I think this is one of the most moving events we have in Norwood," Olga Abdallah, Board Member since the Circle of Hope began, said. "I thank God we have such a beautiful town and so many loving people that are part of our beautiful community. People wish good health to others, it is so very touching”.
The event ran from 5:00-7:00 p.m., but members of the Circle of Hope along with family, friends, and children eager to help with this very special evening arrived at the Common around 3:30 p.m. With their help, boxes full of hundreds of luminaries - labels complete, cup of sand and candle in place - were soon lining the walkways of the Common.
The hundreds of last minute requests - many coming in Friday evening and even Saturday morning - were all fulfilled, as one person was writing labels, two people were adding the sand and children were adding the candles and placing luminaries in any open spot available Saturday afternoon.
When the luminaries were lit, honoring each name written on them, the Common was aglow.
The Amci Cantores, an extension of the Norwood High School Alumni Choir, performed holiday songs, Circle of Hope President Timothy McDonough welcomed the crowd and Msgr. Ryan of St. Catherine's Church offered a blessing to the gathering, noting that hope can be found in the way residents help one another.
"We will find that there is hope and there is health, and so many people in giving and helping others will see the greatest gift is not what not what I gave, but what they gave in their suffering and need," he said. "What you do is superb, what you have committed yourself to has been an inspiration to everyone who has come to know about the project of hope."