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Annual Christmas tree lighting kicks off Advent at Marymount University

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Carols were sung and more than 300 blankets were made for charity at the annual Christmas tree lighting at Marymount University in Arlington Dec. 2. 

The roots of the tree lighting date back more than 20 years, and over the years has grown to include caroling with students and making blankets for a local crisis pregnancy center, HOPE in Northern Virginia, Inc. The evergreen tree, now with blue and white lights, is a permanent fixture on campus just outside the historic Lodge building.


University President Matthew Shank introduced the student choir from Randolph Elementary School in Arlington, who sang favorites “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Holiday Lights.” After their performance, he asked the students what they love about Christmas. The students shouted back “the gifts,” “spending time with family” and “the love.”

Father Tom M. Yehl, chaplain of Marymount’s Catholic Campus Ministry, offered a blessing, “Lord God, let your blessing come upon as we illumine this tree.”

With a countdown, Shank lit the tree. Students and guests attended a reception in the Rose Bente Lee Center, where children were greeted by Santa Claus and guests were invited to join in a service project that looked like a garment factory.

More than 30 students, sprawled out on tables and the floors made blankets for the needy out of colorful fleece material. The event, officially called the Holiday Service Party, is also known as the Baby Blanket Program. It began four years ago during Advent when freshman Maddy Kellen and her friends made 12 blankets one night. 

“The next year I became a (residence assistant) and wanted to provide a service for my residence,” said Kellen, who is known on campus as “blanket girl.” That year, 140 blankets were made in one night. The third year, the project expanded to the entire campus and more 280 blankets were made. This year, 388 blankets were made.


 Most are students, while others come from Christmas tree lighting.


Service points are awarded by the student athletic advisory committee for the person or team that makes the most blankets, an incentive that the university athletic teams did not want to miss. The women’s soccer team won with 46 blankets. The men’s basketball team came close with 45 blankets. 

“Some are zealous and make 20, others can just do one,” said Jen Carter, a junior, who will oversee the fundraiser when Kellen graduates in 2017.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016