Major Vicki Amick, Tom Zupancic and Big Joe Staysniak sing Joy to the World at the Tree of Lights Kick-off, Nov. 18, 2010.

According to employees, officers, and guests, today’s Tree of Lights Kick-off was by far the best yet. There was a new element of impromptu fun and spirited enthusiasm, brought by several special guests to this year’s ceremony. Going into his sixth year, WISH-TV 8 Eric Halvorson opened the ceremony as the honorary Tree of Lights Chairman by saying,  “As The Salvation Army embarks on another Tree of Lights campaign, we should keep in mind that it’s only by the generosity of the central Indiana community that the Army can continue its service to those in need.”

Representing the community, Mayor Greg Ballard shared his sentiments about how he often speaks about character building, relating that to the mission and volunteers for The Salvation Army.

Major Amick brought into focus why the Tree of Lights campaign is so important and how lives are changed with the money that is raised. He shared a poignant testimony of one young man whose life has been forever altered by becoming involved with our Eagle Creek Community Center and its after-school programs. Spared from becoming involved with gang activity and drugs, this young man is now a productive, responsible student in college. He credits this change in direction to the efforts of a Salvation Army officer who took an interest in him, his family and his future. With this story, Major Amick implored us all to not look at The Tree of Lights goal only in terms of numbers. “It doesn’t define what our goal really is. You see, our goal is to save 2,000 people from substance abuse; our goal is to provide 79,000 safe nights of shelter for the homeless and abused; our goal is to serve 200,000 meals to the men, women and children who go hungry in our community. Our goal, our mission, is to continue to meet the needs of humanity in God’s name, without discrimination.”

On a less serious  and much larger note, this year’s honorary Radiothon Chairmen took the stage to cheer on the team.  Tom Zupancic, of your Indianapolis Colts and Big Joe Staysniak of 1070 the Fan and WIBC addressed the crowd just like at a pep rally, reminding attendees to tune in to this year’s  93 WIBC Radiothon, December 3-5.

This year’s Tree of Lights goal, $2.93 million dollars, was given a generous start as Walmart presented a check for $7,500. The Women’s Auxilliary and the Advisory Board both showed their support with checks for $2,500 towards the goal.

The 4th grade children from St. Richard’s School showed their support again this year with several carols. Other musical highlights from today’s ceremony included The Salvation Army’s Brass Ensemble leading the first carol for the season – Joy to the World – accompanied by Tom Zupancic, who surprised us all with his stellar voice. Who knew?

The fun didn’t end there, but with a round of  “Happy Birthday” to our own Mayor Ballard. All in all, it was a great time with friends and supporters. The carols were sung, the tree was lit and as Major Vicki said in her closing words, “It is our hope that this tree will stand as a holiday symbol of the needs of people in our own community and will serve as a daily reminder that The Salvation Army is here each and every day to ensure that those needs are met in the best way possible.”

If you’d like to know more about The Salvation Army Indiana Division or how you can donate, visit our website at www.salvationarmyindiana.org or call 317-937-7000.