Tree of Lights

28th Annual Tree of Lights Festival

On Saturday, December 1st the 28th Annual Tree of Lights once again lit up the Village Green.

The Rescue Squad was proud to illuminate the holiday tree, and thanks to Garden State Fireworks, the skies were lit with a spectacular fireworks show.  You can still be a part of the celebration by placing a red light on our tree in honor of or white in remembrance of a person, family, friends and others.

The names of honorees and remembrances will be posted on the illuminated display on the Village Green as well as on our website. The display and our website will be continually updated throughout the holiday season.  The dedications can be seen below.

To place a light on the tree, please complete the Dedication Order Form and mail it along with your tax-deductible donation of $50.00 per light.

Your contribution to the Tree of Lights is not only a symbol of your feelings of gratitude and love, but also serves to help the Watchung Volunteer Rescue Squad with major endeavors.  This year, through the generosity of the residents and businesses, the squad continues to provide high-quality, excellent Emergency Service.  Thank you in advance for your continued support and contributions.




Sean Whelan of Bernardsville, NJ, was a former Chief of Police and officer with the Watchung Police Department. Sean graduated from the National FBI Academy in Quantico, VA and attended the police academy in Sea Girt. Sean began his career as a police officer with the Watchung Police Department and rose through the ranks, becoming Chief of Police before retiring in 2011. After his distinguished career in law enforcement, Sean was employed with Capital One, J.P. Morgan, and most recently First Data as a Vice President of Fraud Investigations. 

Many Squad members remember Sean as a young officer who was always very helpful and ready to lend a hand on Squad calls. Sean would jump in to help lift a heavy backboard, assist with a rapid takedown, help carry a piece of equipment, go to get something from the ambulance for the crew’s use, or help lift the stretcher into the ambulance. Sean took his role as a police officer on scene very seriously and ensured that the safety of the crew was of paramount importance, being very protective of the members and assisting where necessary. As Chief, Sean was always willing to listen to the needs and concerns of Squad members and officers and to help out wherever he could. 

Sean Whelan is remembered fondly for his devotion to service, hard work, loyalty, and commitment. His deep and abiding love of family and generous spirit was evident in his years of public service and active participation in his community. It is with great honor that this year’s Tree of Lights shall be dedicated to his memory. 


History of the tree of lights

The "Original Tree Three"

Twenty-eight years ago, Judie McCumber came back from a vacation on Martha's Vineyard and told the Squad she saw a great idea that we could use as a fundraiser - a Tree of Lights where residents could place a light on the tree for a donation.  She convinced then Captain, Shirley Cattabiani and Diddy Addario, President that it was worth pursuing.  Never mind that there was no Village Green or no tree in the gravel parking lot by the lake.  With Judie's persistence, Shirley's "can solve any problem" attitude and Diddy handling the town fathers for permission, a tree was brought it, set in a base and strung with lights.  The annual Tree of Lights was born.

Based on Judie's suggestion, the "original tree three" created a winter festival and fundraiser for the Rescue Squad that has become ingrained as a Watchung tradition.  The annual Tree of Lights ceremony originally took place every year on December 7th in honor of Pearl Harbor Day and in recognition of all those who lost their lives on that day and all the members of our armed forces who gave their lives fighting for our freedom.  Over time out of necessity, it was moved to the first Saturday of December.  For a donation your loved ones would be honored or remembered on the tree.  Red and white lights were placed on the tree: red in honor and white in remembrance.

Through the years, many others have kept the Tree of Lights going through their dedication and support, and we thank everyone who has participated either through their contributions in organizing and setting up the event, attending the lighting ceremony or making a donation for helping keep the tradition alive!