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Lighting up the holidays

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

In early November Alisa Silvestre looked out her second story window at Canuck Place Children's Hospice and saw something amazing.

Down below there were almost as many leaves falling off trees as volunteers, all with holiday decorations in hand. Sixty staff members from Canucks Sports & Entertainment spent the day at Canuck Place as part of the organization’s Live-2-Give venture, and to say they brought a smile to Alisa’s face would be an understatement.

That smile was even bigger late last week when the 16-year-old, who lives with congenital muscular dystrophy and visits Canuck Place for respite and pain and symptom management, pushed the big button to illuminate 60 thousand lights strung around the grounds of Canuck Place.

Like everyone else in attendance, Alisa just stared in awe as the sky was lit up with green, red, yellow, orange, blue and white. With classic holiday songs from the Vancouver Bach Choir fresh in mind, all that was missing was a light snowfall to complete the picture perfect scene.

“Now it’s officially the holiday season,” said someone from the crowd.

Alisa couldn’t agree more.

Looking out the window in early November it felt premature to even talk about the holiday season; there were still Halloween decorations to be seen and that coffee shop we all love had yet to release red cups.

That didn’t mean Alisa wasn’t already working on her list, though.

“I really want a digital Polaroid camera and a lamp with an iDoc on it too,” she smiled, seated in her power wheelchair, packing her things to leave Canuck Place after a week of treatment.

Santa, if you’re reading this, get her the lamp/iDoc thingamajiggy (or is it a whatchamacallit?) because the pink iPod she listens to Justin Bieber and One Direction on is always in need of a charge.

“I’ve seen Justin twice in concert, he’s so good,” she gushed. “He was just here in October and we actually made eye-contact, it was great!”

When Alisa visits Canuck Place, she enjoys the quiet time and does a lot of reading and writing, in addition to being serenaded by the Biebs. Back in Burnaby she lives a hectic life as a grade 11 student at Burnaby Central secondary. She splits her time with both mom and dad, and when she’s at mom’s house, Alisa helps keep an eye on her two-and-a-half-year-old identical twin sisters.

The holiday season is a cherished time for Alisa and family, but unlike Canuck Place, most of the decorating is done inside.

“We don’t put very many lights up, but inside we have a Christmas tree with lights and all the collected ornaments from past years,” said Alisa, anticipating another holiday filled with family, food and festivities.

“On Christmas Eve we drive to my aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and we open presents there. And then we’ll come to my house the same night and open more presents and then we go to bed, then we wake up and open the rest of my presents in the morning and then for dinner on Christmas Day we go to my grandparent’s house.”

Although she didn’t get to shake it and unwrapping it wasn’t an option, the gift of Canuck Place becoming even more warm and welcoming for the holidays is one Alisa won’t soon forget.

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