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Star light, star bright: Paying tribute to loved ones

September 27th, 2018
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Danny Balciunas was a shining star during his life. When he died unexpectedly at age 55, his sister Vida knew exactly how she wanted to memorialize him: with a star in the Lights of Hope.

Vida moved to Vancouver from Winnipeg specifically to work at St. Paul’s (getting away from the harsh Manitoba winters was just a bonus). She spent 15 years as a psychiatric nurse at St. Paul’s and was here for the very first Lights of Hope, in 1998. “It was quite small back then, but I remember thinking what a great idea it was. And I remember how much the patients and staff loved it.”

“Even though I’m retired,” Vida says, “I’ve loved watching the Lights grow into the remarkable display we have now. And it’s not just beautiful: it continues to raise money for a great cause.” Vida remembers the critical role of donor support in providing optimal care to her patients. Not surprisingly, donations to the Lights of Hope are even more important today than during Vida’s tenure.

“When I spoke at Danny’s memorial service in Winnipeg, I told the guests about the Lights of Hope and my plan to honour his memory with a star. People came to me afterwards saying what a great idea it was and how they wished there was something similar in Winnipeg.”

Christmas can be an especially hard time during the first fragile year without a loved one, and Danny’s star was a tremendous comfort to Vida. “When I called St. Paul’s Foundation about the star, they were incredibly helpful! I was able to pick the colour of my star and decide what it would say, which made it even more special.”

Looking back, Vida is glad she chose to honour Danny the way she did. “A star is an amazing way to honour someone who is sick. Or to pay your respects to someone who has passed, especially if your loved one was in another province or country. Every time I saw Danny’s star, it brought back so many special memories.”

Vida says her brother Danny was a “shining star” in her life. The Lights of Hope is a shining example of how you can create a meaningful tribute to a loved one while helping to provide meaningful care in the hospitals and residences across Providence Health Care.

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