The Guilford County Sheriff’s Department is holding a “Celebration of Life” and tree-lighting ceremony to honor the lives lost in the county through traffic accidents, domestic violence, crime and addiction.

The event, which will be held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 19 at the Sheriff’s Department’s administrative headquarters at 400 W. Washington St. in downtown Greensboro, will feature a tree with a light representing each of the victims.

The department has held a similar event in the past for the families of those who died in traffic accidents, but the 2018 version is expanded with the other categories included as well.  The event, which will last about an hour, will feature a tree-lighting conducted by a family member of one of the deceased, as well as music, hot chocolate and speakers.  Guilford County Emergency Services Director Jim Albright, Family Justice Center Director Catherine Johnson, and others, will speak at the event.

Guilford County Sheriff’s Department Reentry Coordinator Sharon Harrison-Pope started the event six years ago as a way to honor the lives of those who had died in traffic accidents.  She said she was discussing the 2018 celebration with new Sheriff Danny Rogers and he suggested it would be nice to include those who had lost loved ones in other ways as well.

The department has sent letters to family members of those who died in calendar year 2017.  The victims from 2018 will be honored at next year’s ceremony.

Harrison-Pope said letters went out to 67 families who lost loved ones in traffic accidents that year and she added there were five deaths from domestic violence. The department may have some trouble getting letters to all victims in the other categories but all of those who have lost family members – and everybody else – is welcome at the event, which Harrison-Pope said is also meant to raise awareness about distracted driving, drug abuse and domestic violence.

“Everyone is invited,” she said.

She said that it’s very difficult on people, especially during the holiday season, when they’ve lost a family member.

“One year a family brought little ornaments that they hung on the tree,” she said. “That was particularly heartwarming.”