The family of the late Jon McMahan lit the Tribute Tree at the courtyard of Conway Regional Medial Center on Tuesday.

The 12th annual Tribute Tree Lighting Ceremony was held by the Conway Regional Health Foundation. The foundation oversees a scholarship in memory of McMahan, a division fire chief for the Conway Fire Department and longtime EMT. Lana McMahan, wife of Jon McMahan, and their two children, Adam and Ashley, shared the duty of lighting the tree.

Lana McMahan said the family started the scholarship immediately after her husband’s death in February. It is designed for students pursuing a career in emergency medical services.

"The most important thing is that we keep his memory alive," Lana McMahan said. "Jon was a student his entire life. He never stopped learning. He had just graduated in December (2008), Summa Cum Laude, from (Arkansas) Tech. He was never content with what he knew. He always wanted to learn more and advance in his area. He just loved to learn. 

"To have a scholarship that helps someone else — I can’t tell you what it would mean to Jon. With things like this, we know he’s remembered. We want the impact he made to always be remembered. We knew he was special, but when he passed away we got to see the impact he made on others. We want to see this scholarship continue the legacy he made on his field and the fire service."

The public may honor and remember loved ones with items on the Tribute Tree by making donations to the Conway Regional Health Foundation.

Lori Ross, spokesman for Conway Regional, said proceeds from this year’s Tribute Tree will be distributed among 10 scholarship funds, which are all funded solely by contributions from the medical staff, board of directors, employees and the community. The foundation has awarded more than $110,000 in scholarships to area students since it was founded in 1996, she said.

"These scholarships are going to our future doctors and nurses, radiologists, therapists," she said.

Ross said of the McMahan family, "Each year we try to pick someone that either has a close connection with us or has really made an impact in the community. We consider it an honor, and it was perfect this year, because through the sadness of the loss of Mr. McMahan, his family established a scholarship in his name, and we were able to award the first one this year. That is going to students who are studying to become EMTs. It seemed to make sense that this family would help us this year. We feel very honored that they are going to light the tree for us."

The Tribute Tree will remain lit through the holidays. A white light on the tree in memory or a red light in honor of a loved one may be purchased for $25. Other decorations are also available. A card will be sent to the family of the loved one. To donate, call the foundation at 513-5778 or go to www.conwayregional.org.

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)