Family members pay tribute to lost loved ones in annual event

Nearly 1,500 people joined together for an annual gathering that allows families to honor their loved ones who have passed away.

"It's celebrating who she was, and we want the world to know her," said Brad Woolley.

Hundreds of lights lit up the night sky for those who have passed away. Hospice of the Valley has held this "Light Up a Life" event for 22 years. It's a way for families to come together and pay tribute to their lost loved ones who were once in hospice care.

"They do so much for the people that are grieving, not to mention for the people who are dying, which is very important and you don't really understand it until you've been there," said Steve Hochhaus.

Loved ones are honored by a photo montage set to music projected on the big screen beneath the night sky -- some in frames. Their names are also written down and placed on a tree.

"I started because my wife died in hospice care almost five years ago, and then my dad soon after that in hospice care, and then my step-mom most recently this last January, so their pictures are up tonight," said Hochhaus.

The event is always held at this same time, right before the holidays. This is when organizers say families experience a lot of sadness and need the most support.

This will be Woolley's first holiday season without his wife Deedo. She lost her fight to cancer in July.

"My wife was the ultimate Christmas spirit, as a matter of fact we have a room in our cabin up in Pinetop that is year round Christmas, that was her favorite room. So as we move into the holidays, it's going to be a challenge, and it's going to be hard, but having events like this really help," he said.

While some families have been coming to the event for years, for others, this was their first time. Those families tell us they plan on making it an annual tradition.

Hospice of the Valley