THE MAYOR of Sunderland became one of the first visitors to remember a lost loved one when he wrote a heartfelt message to his late wife and officially opened his local hospice’s dedication tree.

Mayor Councillor Alan Emerson, who lost his beloved wife Janice in the summer following a short illness, was the first of what will be hundreds of hospice supporters who will write their loved ones’ names and messages on specially designed baubles to hang on the beautiful tree.

The tree stands outside Tesco, in The Bridges shopping centre, Sunderland, every year to help raise funds for St Benedict’s Hospice, in Ryhope, and is staffed by volunteers. It is at the centre until December 18 and supporters are asked to make a donation to the hospice when writing their dedication.

Councillor Emerson said: “We all feel the pain and loss when somebody near, dear and loved is no longer with us. I have had that pain this year with the loss of my wife Jan.

“Hospice care is very important for people who may be at an advanced stage of illness. We have many volunteers in our city who give time to good causes and institutions, and St Benedict’s is one of them.

“Please show your support, please take a moment to write a message, and please make a donation. Christmas can be a time when we are even more conscious of family or friends that are no longer with us. This dedication tree is an opportunity to write a message of remembrance and to help others.”

Catrina Flynn, fundraising manager at the hospice, said:

“We’re very grateful to the Mayor, both for choosing the hospice as one of his charities this year and for completing one of the baubles during what will undoubtedly be a difficult time for him as we head towards Christmas.

“It’s very poignant when the tree is full knowing that so many people are being remembered at this time of year. It doesn’t have to be someone who has died, it can be someone who you can’t spend time with this Christmas for whatever reason.”

The hospice is looking for volunteers who can spare a couple of hours at the tree. Anyone who can help can contact 0191 512 8436.

Pic cap one: Sunderland Mayor Councillor Emerson pays tribute to his late wife, Jan, by completing a St Benedict’s bauble on the hospice’s dedication tree