Holiday pond lighting celebrates new life

Families gathered on the shore around the pond at North Florida Regional Medical Center to see the more than 70,000 lights the illuminate the many holiday decorations, during the 23rd Annual Pond Lighting at the hospital, in Gainesville on Friday.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, December 7, 2012 at 9:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 at 9:41 p.m.

North Florida Regional Medical Center ushered in its holiday pond lighting Friday night by celebrating new life: 14 babies born this year at the hospital, held by their mothers, who came on stage during Friday night's annual event.

Some of the babies slept. Some smiled. Some, like 11-month-old Ava, "danced," said her mother, Jodi Modica.

Modica and other mothers were part of a new mother's group at NFRMC's Women's Center. "I had a wonderful experience at the Women's Center. The doctors, nurses and community have been invaluable," Modica said.

Ava is her first child, and this year marked Modica's first pond lighting, something she said her family will definitely come back to.

For many Gainesville-area families, the annual lighting event is a tradition, and this year marks the 23rd year for the month-long light display.

"I spent so many years coming to this, so now it's great to be a part of it," said Sony Agrawak, a volunteer handing out sugar cookies. Agrawak grew up in Gainesville and is now a nurse in the hospital's critical care unit.

"I had a couple of patients come out and I met their family," Agrawak said. "No one wants to come to the hospital, but everyone comes together here and gets to have a little bit of joy."

For other people, the light display is how they learn about NFRMC, said Nancy Rodi, property manager of the Women's Center building as well as the Medical Arts Building on the NFRMC campus. "I think it really brings the community together. It's great publicity for the hospital."

Rodi has been coming to the event since she moved to Gainesville 9 years ago, and Friday she brought her grandkids, ages 5, 7, and 9.

The grassy area around NFRMC's duck pond looked like a winter wonderland on Friday night, replete with snowmen, tables with free hot chocolate and marshmallows and Christmas cookies, and more than 70,000 lights forming different holiday displays around the pond. Santa's sleigh was led by "Big Ben," a 21-year-old horse from Middleburg who became a major attraction.

"Someone fed him a cookie when I wasn't looking, so now everyone's hand looks like a cookie," said the horse's owner Mike Pinto, who kept his restless horse gentle with all the attention. "He loves this."

There were performances by the Hillel Choir, the Buchholz jazz band and the Gainesville Ballet Theater. Storm Roberts, host of the WKTK morning show, emceed the event. Piped in Christmas music played around the pond's perimeter.

Dorlinda Gilham and her daughter and three grandchildren, all from Bronson, sat on a grassy slope by the pond and took it all in. The kids were waiting until the line died down to talk to Santa. "This is definitely family entertainment," Gilham said.

The light display is free and goes from dusk to dawn every night until Dec. 31.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 and

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