University Hospital McDuffie celebrated the 37th annual Tree of Love lighting on Dec. 3.

The annual ceremony is meant to raise money to help fund the purchase of equipment for the hospital to better the level of care at the facility. The Tree of Love is sponsored by the hospital’s Volunteer Auxiliary.

“I would like to thank our volunteers who have worked countless hours this year,” said Bill Doupe, chairman of the University Hospital McDuffie board. “They truly are a blessing to our hospital.”

Members of the community can celebrate Christmas and help support the hospital by donating a minimum gift of $10 to add a light to the tree in honor or in memory of a loved one. Donations are still being accepted through the end of the year. Donations can be mailed to University Hospital McDuffie, 2460 Washington Rd. Thomson, GA 30824.

“All proceeds from the Tree of Love are used to purchase equipment that has a direct impact on our patients and their families,” said Dawn Swan, director of volunteer services for University Hospital McDuffie.

Bob Kepshire, administrator and chief nursing officer for University Hospital McDuffie, added that the hospital and its volunteers are proud to offer quality healthcare to the citizens of McDuffie and surrounding counties.

The 2019 tree was lit by Drs. Alexandra Kaikis and Andreas Kaikis, podiatrists who recently joined the McDuffie Podiatry and Wound Care practice in Thomson and perform surgery through University Hospital McDuffie. The couple met in medical school and got married two years ago. They were recruited to Thomson from Pennsylvania.

“We love Thomson,” said Andreas Kaikis. “The people are one of a kind.”

Swan said the couple is excited to be part of the community and are grateful for the hospitality they have received.

“We are excited to have the Kaikises join our medical staff at University Hospital McDuffie,” Swan said.

The night also included entertainment from the Thomson First United Methodist Church preschool under the direction of Katie Turnbull. The event ended with a special appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus who arrived via Thomson-McDuffie Fire and EMS ambulance to greet the children and hand out candy canes.

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