Monday, December 11, 2000

Gifts to hospice decorate tree

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — At Miami University's campus in Middletown, the holiday tree is also a tree of life.

        Part of Hospice of Middletown's “Light up a Life” program, the tree is hung with more than 100 white heart-shaped ornaments. Each ornament was purchased to memorialize or honor an individual, and bears that person's name.

  How to Light Up a Life Hospice of Dayton is sponsoring trees at these locations:
  • Towne Mall in Middletown. Donations of $10 or more. Special commemorative 20th anniversary ornaments are available for $20. Call (800) 886-0282.
  • Books 'n' More, Wilmington and Fifth Third Bank, Hillsboro. Donations of $12 or more. (800) 466-7866.
  In Cincinnati, the public can participate in Celebration of Life at Hospice of Cincinnati. For a donation of $20 or more, individuals can memorialize or honor someone with a light placed on evergreen trees outside Hospice's Blue Ash headquarters. 569-6218.
        The tree itself celebrates the life of the late C. Eugene Bennett, who supervised the opening of Miami University Middletown in 1965 and served as its director until his retirement in 1986. He guided development of campus facilities and programs, especially the nursing program, said MUM spokesman Dick Sollman.

        Dr. Bennett died in September 1999.

        “Gene so loved the holi days and the Middletown community that I thought it appropriate to honor his memory in this way,“ said Pat Merriman Bennett, his widow. “I also have deep respect for the work of hospice.“

        This is the third year that Miami's Middletown campus has sponsored a hospice holiday tree, said Wanita Hatton, a MUM staffer and member of Campus Involved Volunteers in the Community (CIVIC). The dedication to Dr. Bennett has motivated many on campus to participate in the fund-raiser.

        “It's been well received and donations are pouring in,“ she said.

        A donation of at least $5 buys an ornament, Ms. Hatton said. When the tree comes down Friday, donors may reclaim their ornaments.

        Mike Priest, an education major at MUM, has bought an ornament for everyone in his family, plus one for each organization that has provided a scholarship for him.

        To purchase an ornament for the MUM tree, call 727-3342.

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