The Daily Gamecock

Tree Lighting celebrates spirit of giving

Annual ceremony recognizes charity of Carolina students


The campus countdown to Christmas formally began with the 57th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Horseshoe Thursday evening.

The ceremony began in 1954 as a celebration of USC students’ service work for Columbia families during the holiday season. The tradition continues today to honor the charity work of Carolina Cares, as well as other student organizations that have preformed outstandingly good deeds during the holiday season.

“It’s a great night to be a Gamecock,” USC Student Body President Joe Wright said at the ceremony.

This year, Carolina student organizations, through the Nurturing Center and Project on the Home Front, adopted 40 families and provided each family with gifts to open on Christmas. Six hundred stockings were also stuffed and donated to the Salvation Army for children who would have otherwise received very little or nothing for the holidays.

“Six hundred may not seem like a lot now, but over the years USC has donated thousands of stockings for kids in the Midland area,” said Major Robert Couson, a Salvation Army corps officer.

Couson, on the behalf of the Salvation Army, presented Carolina Cares Director Alex Cebry, with the Carolina Bells award for volunteer excellence and substantial charitable donation.

USC Fashion Board, Capstone Scholars Program, Honors Council, Freshman Council and several other organizations received ornaments to place on the tree for their standout service in 2011.

“The Tree Lighting Ceremony is meant to recognize all service done within all student organizations on campus,” said Cebry, a third-year public relations student. “We are very proud of our Carolina family for all our accomplishments this season, especially the adoption of about 40 families for Christmas.”

It was a night for all members of the Gamecock family, university President Harris Pastides said.

“This [ceremony] is not just for Christians,” Pastides said. “It’s a coming-together of different people of all beliefs. We didn’t come tonight to celebrate one religion, but to celebrate the service that our school has performed for the children and families of South Carolina.”

The spruce tree, which was grown locally, was lit to the tune of “O Christmas Tree” sung by Logan Elementary School choir.

“It was very festive,” said Hope Stewart, a first-year exercise science student. “It reminded me of the Grinch tree lighting.”