A construction crew has found a way to lift spirits at Akron Children’s Hospital this Christmas season.
Every night, a 13-foot lighted Christmas tree is hoisted by a massive crane some 150 feet above the pediatric hospital in downtown Akron for young patients to see.
The dangling, twinkling tannenbaum was a gift from Welty-Boldt superintendent Tom Conti, who is overseeing the $200 million construction project at the hospital.
Five years ago, one of his three sons was a patient there after he contracted the West Nile virus.
Joe, now 9, made a full recovery, thanks to the care he received, Conti said.
“When you go in the hospital and see what they’re going through, whatever you can do to put a smile on their face,” he said. “All the kids are excited to see it lit up at night. That was our goal.”
Welty workers also collected nearly $4,000 for gifts that were distributed to hospitalized patients last week.
When Ben Stanoyevic, 15, of Massillon was admitted on Saturday for complications from cystic fibrosis, his mother, Stacey, was surprised to see a Christmas tree hovering high above the hospital.
“Oh my God, there’s a tree in the sky!” she told her son. “Ben, look!”
At first, Ben was confused.
“I wondered why they were hanging it,” he said.
But he’s enjoyed watching the tree each day from a hospital window.
“It’s definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever seen — a Christmas tree floating in the sky,” his mother said. “I think it’s amazing that they do that for the kids.”
Conti got the idea after seeing an illuminated tree hanging from a crane at another construction site several years ago.
“I always wanted to do it some day on a project,” he said. “Here at Children’s Hospital, with the kids looking out watching us, it was just a perfect chance to do it.”
After getting approval from the hospital and crane operator ALL Erection & Crane Rental, Conti and his family cut down the 13-foot giant at a tree farm in Bolivar.
The week after Thanksgiving, Welty carpenters strung the boughs with 450 LED lights, powered by a 12-volt car battery.
Each night, workers hook the tree to a crane and lift it into the air. The evergreen sways in the wind until the crane is lowered and returns to work the next morning.
“It’s just free spinning with the wind,” Conti said. “Usually, if the wind is out of the west, the east tower crane that we put the tree on swings toward the hospital. It worked out perfect.”
For some patients, the sight seems almost magical.
“They think Santa had something to do with it,” said Lin Gentile, the hospital’s vice president for professional and support services. “It’s fun.”
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.