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Christmas lights strung near Sacred Heart will bring cheer to child patients

Cowley Park, a tranquil space of trees and grass amid towering hospital buildings, will be illuminated to bring cheer to children spending their Christmas season at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The KXLY Extreme Team and the the Children’s Miracle Network enlisted the volunteer help of Avista Utilities linemen and an Asplundh tree crew to string thousands of Christmas lights throughout the park this week. Crews used bucket loaders reaching 70 feet in the air.

The effort grew from a modest plan to a special undertaking as money, equipment and volunteer hours poured in, said Mark Peterson, an anchor with television station KXLY.

Monday began with about $3,000 worth of lights. By afternoon – with donations from Ace Hardware stores in north Spokane – crews were tasked with hanging about $8,500 worth of lights.

Christine Meyer, spokeswoman for the Avista Foundation, said eight linemen – including Nick Jordan wearing a Santa suit – helped ensure the lights were strung safely. She said the project attempted to use as many LED light strings as possible to shave power usage.

“It’s a lot of lights,” she said.

A building in the park will be redecorated as a gingerbread house, and Peterson said strings of rope lights will be submerged in the small creek that trickles through the park.

It’s all part of an effort to make something special for patients spurred by Kirsten Carlile, director of the Children’s Miracle Network in Spokane, and Peterson.

“Everyone involved has been just great,” Peterson said.

Work continues Tuesday and the lights will be briefly turned on at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The display will be fine-tuned and ready for regular evening lighting beginning Dec. 1.

Another piece of the project includes mounting 13 large inflatable figures atop downtown Spokane buildings, including a 12-foot Santa Claus. Children at the hospital will be given binoculars to peer from their rooms across the city to spot the Christmas- and winter-themed figures.

Cowley Park is easily overlooked and yet fitting for the light display, Peterson said.

It is historically significant to the region, named for the Rev. Henry T. Cowley, a pioneer who arrived in Spokane in 1874 and built his home and the city’s first public school on the site, according to the Spokane Historical Society. He documented the early years with accounts published in the Spokane Daily Chronicle, according to the historical society.

He is most remembered for his work with the Spokane Tribe. He allowed Indian children to attend his school until another could be built.

Some of the trees he planted on the property remain today.