'Sign of hope:' The incredibly moving reason this Virginia Christmas tree still shines bright

Christmas Tree
Posted at 12:42 AM, Apr 27, 2023

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — A Christmas tree still shines brightly in one Virginia neighborhood waiting for a little girl to come home from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Erica “Sissy” Milton of Hopewell has been in the hospital for eight months being treated for a brain tumor.

Erica "Sissy" Milton
Erica "Sissy" Milton

“Your tree gave us a sign of hope throughout all of this," the girl’s mother, Taylor Milton, said about the Christmas tree in Colonial Heights still up and awaiting her daughter’s homecoming this Saturday.

Chuck Everett has been keeping the tree in his yard, with just over 4,000 lights, illuminated until “Sissy” comes home.

Chuck Everett
Chuck Everett

"Today’s 152 days,” Everett recently told CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil. “Had heard through our family she was very sick fighting a brain tumor."

So Everett decided not to take his tree down on New Year’s Day.

"It was the deal that tree would stay lit until ‘Sissy’ was able to make it to see the tree it in person,” Milton explained.

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So for the past four months, the green and red lights on “Sissy’s” tree have shined brightly.

"She's got a Christmas tree waiting for her when she gets home," Everett said.

Erica "Sissy" Milton
Erica "Sissy" Milton

The girl’s mother said the family tried to make the most of the holiday at the hospital.

"We made it as best as possible for her, but she definitely did not get the normal two-year-old’s Christmas experience," her mother recalled.

As a result, along with the extraordinarily large tree, Santa is expected to make a special visit to see “Sissy” since he was not able to last year.

Taylor Milton
Taylor Milton

For the Miltons, the gesture of support has been inspiring for them during their eight months at St. Jude.

"I think it speaks volumes as them as people,” Milton said.

The girl’s mother also said the support of the community has been a blessing.

"It means the absolute world to us,” Milton said. “I don't think we'd be where we're at today without the support of the whole community that we've had behind us."

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And while at two years old, “Sissy” is too young to understand everything that has happened to her, her mother is hopeful that she will understand that she is loved on Saturday.

"I'm excited to see the thrill on her face that she deserves after these long, tolling months," Milton said.

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Besides a visit from Santa, a short parade is planned. The Miltons said they expect a lot of “Sissy's” prayer warriors will be on hand for the surprise.

As for the Everett’s Christmas tree, he said it will be coming down on Sunday.

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Erica "Sissy" Milton
Erica "Sissy" Milton

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