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Lights of Love event lifts spirits at Las Vegas children’s hospital

A girl sitting on a tall stool waved a miniature green flashlight from behind a hospital third-floor window Monday evening.

“I get to turn it on and off, on and off,” said 5-year-old Alicia Longoria-Buffington, a patient at the Children’s Hospital at University Medical Center.

And for several minutes, a crowd of about 75 first responders and residents shined their own flashlights and vehicle lights right back at her.

Their message to Alicia and the other young patients and their families: You are not alone this holiday season.

Monday’s Lights of Love event was the first in a series this month at children’s hospitals in the Las Vegas Valley. American Medical Response and MedicWest Ambulance, the largest providers of private ambulance services in Southern Nevada, teamed up with the hospitals for the events.

Alicia and two other hospital patients gathered at 6 p.m. in an east-facing room to watch the spectacle below.

“The ambulances are so cool because they’re turning blue and red,” Alicia said. “It’s so pretty to see all the lights out there.”

Alicia’s father, David Longoria-Buffington, said his daughter had been hospitalized with signs of appendicitis that turned out to be kidney issues.

Zion Green, 12, who’d been in the hospital for four days with severe pain from sickle cell anemia, said the event served “to remind us we can still do things, even if we’re sick.”

Diego Ugalde, 16, hospitalized with dog bites to his hands and arms, originally didn’t plan to come to the event but said he was glad he did.

“It was really fun and cool,” he said.

In the crowd below, Emeral Garcia said she was inspired to come to the event to honor her sister who died in August at age 37.

“She wasn’t a kid …” Garcia began to say, when her mother, Trina Guzman, interjected: “She was my kid.”

Heather Raasveld, an advanced emergency medical technician with MedicWest, proposed the idea for Lights of Love to her employer after seeing a video of a similar event at a children’s hospital in Michigan.

“If we can lift their spirits for even one evening, take their mind off of things, that’s perfection for us,” she said.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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