By Kayla Carter
John and Regina Buck had a special 2-year-old – and official tree lighter – in tow Monday night at the Roan Mountain Christmas in the Village event.
It was their son Jace Buck’s big debut after he had spent time recovering from a rare illness called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
“Jace is just a ray of light himself,” Tipton said.
Tipton said Jace has experienced multiple heart surgeries and is a representation of the support system the Roan Mountain community has created.
“We are honored,” Regina said. “Everyone has been so good to us. I couldn’t imagine any community rallying around anybody more than they have Jace. “It is a privilege to be loved by this town.”
Through community fundraisers, financial support, encouragement, and most of all prayers, Regina said her family has been able to keep their jobs, house and high spirits.
“We couldn’t have done this without them,” Regina said. “It feels good to get him out and into the community. We’ve not been able to get him out.”
The tree Jace lighted symbolizes the Roan Mountain community’s strength and support, Tipton said.
“The tree withstood the flood in ’98,” she said. “That tree was pretty much the only thing left around here.”
The tree’s story is similar to Jace’s story in that they both represent “working through hard times,” Tipton said.
With about 300 people in attendance, Tipton said she was pleasantly surprised by the event’s increasing attendance.
Just like the community’s symbolic tree, the event, “seems to grow a little bigger every year,” she said. “Just moving it outdoors has been a drastic reason for change in the numbers.”