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1800 hours later, Lights of Hope illuminate St. Paul’s

A fireworks display popped above as the lights turned on for St. Paul's Lights of Hope. [Allison Tanner]

A fireworks display popped above as the lights turned on for St. Paul’s Lights of Hope. [Allison Tanner]

It took a total of 1800 grueling volunteer hours for BCIT students to organize the Lights of Hope display, but two students told The Link it was worth every minute.

Mark Francis and Amrit Atwal are just two of the 16 high school students enrolled in the BCIT Electrical Foundations program. Prior to setting up the lights, students together with two retired electricians and two staff, worked to plan the set up process and debrief after. During the two weeks, the team endured cold early mornings to ensure the lights were ready in time. Students worked eight hours a day checking the lights and setting up the display to guarantee it would all work for the night it was lit. “It was pretty tough at times but we all fought through it,” said Francis.

The annual light display at St. Paul’s Hospital was turned on last week with a fireworks show. As spectators looked on, a band played to celebrate the occasion and Burrard Street was lined with food carts giving out free drinks and treats. This is BCIT’s 13th consecutive year partnering with the Lights of Hope Foundation and instructor Don Zacklan’s fifth. “We did a very thorough job this year,” explained Zacklan. “We’ve got everything properly hooked up and everything’s water proofed and it looks great.”

Zacklan’s students are with him for two semesters before entering the workforce to complete an apprenticeship. During their two weeks working on the Lights of Hope, students gain valuable experience that is transferable to other jobs in the field. Atwal was especially excited about the opportunity. “I really enjoyed it. Not everyone gets to take part in something like this,” he said.


The class was split up into small groups and put in charge of different sections of the display. Both Atwal and Francis were excited about the specific sections they’d worked on. Frances did the red stripes down the front and some of the stars while Atwal worked mostly on the small stars that fill the entrance tunnel.

And they had quite a turnout of spectators. St Paul’s media rep Brice Dare said, “It seems like there were more people there this year, than previous years.” It seems the students get a lot out of it too. “They get some work experience hours, volunteer hours, and get to learn what volunteering is all about,” he explained. “It’s exciting to be apart of it every year. Exciting to be a part of the Lights of Hope Foundation,” said Zacklan.

The lights will be on every night from 4pm until 8am the next morning, now until January 6. The Foundation hopes to raise $2.2 million.

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