The Daily Gamecock

Tree lighting ceremony marks culmination of service projects

<p>Carolina Service Council held the 61st Annual Tree lighting ceremony on the Horseshoe on Tuesday.</p>
Carolina Service Council held the 61st Annual Tree lighting ceremony on the Horseshoe on Tuesday.

The holiday spirit was definitely in the air Tuesday night on the Horseshoe at the 61st annual tree lighting ceremony, put on by the Carolina Service Council.

The council, which celebrates the tree lighting as a culmination of this semester’s service activity, was hard at work this semester giving back to the local community. Members of the council helped send holiday mail to U.S. military, veterans and their families and partnered with the Salvation Army to stuff stockings for needy children and families in the Columbia area.

Before the ceremony, Major Roger Coulson, Salvation Army regional coordinator and Corps officer, spoke on the impact USC students have on the organization and the community.

“We want you to realize that, this year, those stockings — more than ever — are going to bring laughter, joy and a sense that there are others that care,” Coulson said. “The children may not realize where these stockings have come from, but certainly the parents will know that they come from people who want to do their very best to help others, and that’s what this campus is all about.”

University President Harris Pastides and Student Body President Jonathan Kaufman were also on hand at the celebration. They spoke on how the event means more than simply lighting a tree.

“[I]t’s something we can all rally around and we can all look to as a symbol of the fact that we give back to the community, and we care about people and love them and show compassion,” Kaufman said. “I think it’s a really cool reminder; I actually live on the Horseshoe, so I’ll see it every morning, and it’s really cool.”

For Pastides, the tree lighting ceremony is a nostalgic event.

“I want to tell you that this ceremony is very important to me; it makes me feel like a child,” Pastides said.

Cocky, who is celebrating his 61st birthday as well, appeared with Pastides, and the Cockapellas singing group led the students gathered around the tree in the alma mater and Christmas carols.

Students who attended, such as fourth-year finance student Amy Stonecipher, were there to take in the holiday spirit and reminisce about their time at USC.

“It was great; singing the alma mater, especially as a senior, always makes me more emotional,” Stonecipher said. “It’s always great to hear the president speak, and it’s inspiring to hear about all the service that our community is doing.”

News staff writer Holly Heaton contributed to reporting.