“Oh yes, I see the spirit and the cheerfulness,” Jackson, 48, said in American Sign Language to a member of WellStar’s team of interpreters. “When people are touched and their eyes start glistening.”
Being the featured act at the event, in front of more than 500 people, was the culmination of a year of recovery for the Acworth resident and breast cancer survivor, who underwent a double mastectomy at WellStar last year and completed treatment in May. She also finished the 60-mile Komen 3-Day walk in October in Atlanta.
“There’s no words to express my feelings, but I am so happy to be here and having the honor of lighting the tree,” said Jackson, whose husband Scott, daughter Katrina, 21, and son Tyler, 14, joined her on stage.
Jackson said the doctors and nurses at Kennestone made her feel at ease.
“I never felt anyone treating me any different while I was here,” she said.
The free Lite the Night event is a chance for WellStar employees and the surrounding community to come together to usher in the holidays, Kennestone President Candice Saunders said. Children could visit Santa and reindeer and take part in making crafts. Onstage, the choir from West Side Elementary School in Marietta and other acts performed, with B 98.5 disc jockey Jordan Graye hosting.
“We get huge community support,” Saunders said. “Of course, the nice weather helps out.”
The event leads up to the lighting of the 7-year-old artificial tree, located a few hundred feet away atop the Tom & Betty Phillips Tower. Kennestone director of engineering Tim Millwood said the tree stands 60-feet-tall-by-50-feet-wide and is decorated with 60,000 multi-colored lights. It can be viewed from Interstate 75 or atop Kennesaw Mountain.
“If I’m driving to work and I’m at the intersection of Cobb Parkway and the North Marietta Loop, I can see it,” said internal communications specialist Pat Torres.
Amber OShea of Dallas, who works in Kennestone’s emergency room, said this is the first time she had attended the event in her five years as an employee.
“I think it’s good that they have something like this,” she said as she waited in line to see Santa Claus with her 8-year-old daughter Audreanna Garrett and son Christopher Garrett, 13. “You get caught up in work and you don’t think they care, but they do.”
State Rep. Sean Jerguson (R-Woodstock) and his wife Kate, said the line for Santa was too long, but there were plenty of other fun activities for their children Claire, 9, and Eli, 7. This was the third year they had attended and said it looked like the largest crowd they had seen.
“It kind of kicks off the holidays for us,” Rep. Jerguson said. “We don’t go down to the Lenox tree (in Atlanta) or anything like that.”