Ceremony in remembrance of children to return

Dec. 7—The 26th annual Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting will return with an in-person ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 11, after two years of virtual ceremonies.

Al Davino, chapter leader and a member of the steering committee of the Oneonta Region Chapter, said Oneonta's chapter held its first candle lighting ceremony in memory of children who have died a year before the worldwide event started.

"The Compassionate Friends realized there was a need to specifically honor deceased children and grandchildren to make the holidays more bearable," Davino said. "It's a way to celebrate the lives of departed children and provide comfort to parents, grandparents and siblings."

The annual candle lighting unites family and friends around the globe in a ceremony honoring children who have died from any cause, and transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries, a media release said. Beginning in New Zealand, candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time. From there, the worldwide ceremony produces a virtual 24-hour wave of light moving from one time zone to another. The annual event provides a time for families to remember their departed children, and may help to make the holiday season more bearable, organizers said. Anyone who has lost a child of any age is welcome to attend, as are grandparents, siblings and other close relatives and friends.

Davino said with the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day holidays, it's a "one, two and three punch," for families dealing with the loss of a child. "We derive a certain amount of comfort by honoring our own daughter," he said. Davino said he and his wife lost their daughter almost 15 years ago.

This year, due to lessened COVID-19 concerns, the ceremony will be held in person at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 12 Ford Ave. in Oneonta, the release said. Participants are encouraged to arrive at the church between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m., and to bring a small picture of their child, if possible. The photo will be placed behind one of the individual votive candles that will be arranged on a special memory table. During the ceremony, each family will be invited to come forward and light the candle honoring their loved one.

The Oneonta program also includes a variety of music, poetry, personal stories and a memory photo presentation set to music, the release said. Candles will be provided and refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the ceremony. Additionally, local artist David Geer has been commissioned to create original hand-painted ornaments for each family to personalize with their child's name. The ornaments are a gift from the Oneonta Chapter of TCF to each family in attendance. While not required, participants are encouraged to wear masks, the release said.

Davino said in past years, the ceremony averaged between 40 and 45 people.

"This year, it will be a hybrid ceremony," Davino said. "People can watch it on Zoom. I still think some are concerned with COVID. We are providing a Zoom observation in case some can't come from far away or they're concerned about catching something or don't feel comfortable attending in person for a variety of reasons."

He said people can find the Zoom link on the organization's website, www.tcfoneonta.org. For information about registering for the Zoom program, or for submitting a photo for the photo presentation, visit www.tcfoneonta.org. Call 607-746-7396 with other questions.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.