Every year between mid-November to the beginning of January, the red brick exterior of St. Paul’s Hospital is beautifully illuminated with stars and holiday lights that run from top to bottom of the building. You’ve likely walked by or heard about this spectacular display of holiday lights that lights up annually during the Lights of Hope campaign. However, have you ever wondered how the lights are installed or who is behind the installation?
Giving back to the community while supporting student learning
For more than a decade, BCIT Electrical Instructor Don Zaklan has been voluntarily leading and teaching BCIT Electrical Foundation students to repair and install the spectacular display of holiday lights that light up the annual Lights of Hope.
While Don celebrated his retirement from BCIT last year, he returned to continue his passion in mentoring students to work on this year’s Lights of Hope. Don wanted to ensure the holiday tradition continues and BCIT students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience while giving back to the community.
Behind the scenes at Lights of Hope with BCIT
Separating lights, testing electrical systems, and installing lights are no easy tasks when there are over 100,000 light bulbs spanning the length of more than 10 kilometers. Back in August, Don and BCIT Instructor Cheryl Mullin taught the first cohort of 16 Electrical Foundation students to untangle, repair, and test lights that are laid out across the stadium at BC Place. During this week, students also gained eye-opening experience by touring the intricate electrical systems at St. Paul’s Hospital and BC Place.
Then in the months leading up to November, two more cohorts of Electrical Foundation students and instructors Mike McGuiness and Chad Flinn joined Don to work on installing the lights.
“This project provides valuable hands-on experience for BCIT students. The challenge is teaching young apprentices to install lights that look professionally done, such as ensuring the 48 red rope lights are installed perfectly vertical,” explains Don. “However, by the end of the installation, these apprentices have successfully demonstrated the importance of attention to detail and utilized their skills to make the installation look professional.”
Even though this project required an army of volunteers and dedication, Don shared that the most rewarding aspect of working on this project is when people walk by to admire, comment, and support the display. He adds, “The display means a lot to the patients, family, and friends that visit this hospital. It’s an annual holiday tradition that lights up the city. It’s also a warm reminder for us to give back and support those in our community.”
Help support this community celebration
Since its inception in 1998, the St Paul’s Lights of Hope campaign has raised over $37 million and have provided much-needed support to patients, residents, caregivers, and families at Providence Health Care sites
This year’s Lights of Hope will lit for the first time on November 14. Make a donation in advance or onsite at the Living Light kiosk that is a new to the display this year. The Living Light is an interactive art piece that shines brightly when you tap to donate, and fades when it goes too long without support.
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