Thank you for the great response to our first newsletter in October 2011!

Dear Partners in Hope,
We are simply overwhelmed by the wonderful, positive response to our first newsletter. Some of you suggest a brief description of The Hope Tree and how its accompanying website – – got started.

We think that is a fine idea – so here goes:

The Hope Tree sculpture was created in 2009 by Carol Jeanotilla and her team from Big3D Productions, Inc. for St. Helena Hospital in St. Helena, CA. They were building their new state-of-the-art Martin O’Neil Cancer Center and wanted the emotional connection with patients and their families to be extraordinary and deep – and art would be the symbol of this commitment. This amazing – and enormous – piece of art has fulfilled that goal and more than anyone could have ever imagined. People interact with the sculpture in ways that offer daily doses of hope and encouragement to patients, their families and the center’s caregivers alike.

The meaningful impact this sculpture has had is so extraordinary that the artist wants thousands more to be able to experience its spirit-recharging qualities – thus the making of With the story of the sculpture at its foundation, the site expands on the integral part that hope plays in recovery by offering ever-changing videos, pod casts, stories, guest authors and research about the biology of hope. 

As part of our evolving monthly format here in Illuminate, we plan to bring you sources of new research into the biology of hope as scientists around the world repeatedly prove the link between hope and healing. There will be a section listing books we have read and recommend. We will also take you to areas of website that you may be aware of yet. This month we feature the Science of Hope page – rich in information and resources about the real world research driving this movement around the globe. We will also showcase one symbol a month from The Hope Tree TM to help you become more familiar with all 48 symbols on the sculpture. This month, we highlight the Hummingbird symbol.

The high-calling of offering daily hope and encouragement is our mission on and it remains our mission here in Illuminate. Let us hear from you about what inspires you and what you would like to see next!

Hoping you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with all your favorite people. 

– Carol Jeanotilla

If you have enjoyed what you see here in this newsletter, find even more helpful and  hopeful information at:

Guest author, Jason LaGrange

We know you all grew to love Jason and his children – Gaven, Aiden and little Riley – after meeting them on The Hope Tree documentary. We all crieded together thinking of this lovely family having to do without its wife and mother, Crystal.

Click here to find out how they have done in the 2 years since the filming and the continuing role that hope plays in their lives. 

Continue reading Jason’s story in his own words.

Click the “26 Minute Video” icon to the left to watch Jason and his family on the documentary about The Hope Tree.

Should I be hopeful or optimistic?

Hope differs from positive thinking. Positive thinking is passive. Genuine hope requires action and knowledge. No one explains this concept better than Jerry Groopman, MD, in his ground-breaking book, The Anatomy of Hope:

“Hope differs from optimism. Hope does not arise from being told to ‘think positively,’ or from hearing an overly rosy forecast. Hope, unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality. Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see – in the mind’s eye – a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along the path. True hope has no room for delusion.

Clear-eyed, hope gives the courage to confront our circumstances and the capacity to surmount them. For all my patients, hope, true hope, has proved as important as any medication I might prescribe or any procedure I might perform.

Hope can arrive only when we recognize that there are real options and that you have genuine choices. Hope can flourish only when you believe that what you do can make a difference, that your actions can bring a future different from the present. To have hope then, is to acquire a belief in your ability to have some control over your circumstances. You are no longer entirely at the mercy of forces outside yourself.”

Optimism is certainly a valuable tool in life. It too has a long history of research. And it can be learned – even in adulthood. Under our Resource section, see Dr. Seligman’s ground-breaking research in the very readable book, Learned Optimism. We provide other links to many sites discussing just such findings. But it is hope – authentic hope – that we are in need of now. Let’s learn how to create it.

Click here to read more about the Science of Hope.

Our Featured Symbol from The Hope Tree : Hummingbird

Against all odds this tiny whisper of a bird flits, hovers and soars at dizzying speeds. Their hearts can beat an astounding 1,260 beats per minute as their wings beat up to 100 times a second. The fluttering wings of the hummingbird move in the figure eight pattern of an infinity symbol – justifying their symbolism of eternity, continuity, and infinity. In Native American cultures a Hummingbird totem is a messenger of hope and jubilation. By drinking flower nectar – a vital part of their nourishment – they also pollinate many plant species that have no other way to reproduce. Amazing migrators, Hummingbirds are known to wing their way as far as 2,000 miles to reach their destination.  Hummingbirds need nourishment every few minutes to keep bodies in motion with tireless energy.  

We adorn the Hope Tree with their image as a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible – teaching us to find the miracle of joyful living from our present circumstances.

By observing seemingly tireless hummingbirds, we strive to have their endurance as we search for wellness. They remind us to be persistent in the pursuit of our dreams, and adopt the tenacity of the hummingbird in our lives.

Sip by sip, inch by inch we too can find the nourishment we need to sustain ourselves in seemingly impossible circumstances – leaving hope and joy in our wake.

Click here to learn the stories behind all 48 hope symbols on The Hope Tree sculpture.

Featured Reading & Listening

There are many fine authors out there who have written very inspiring books about the power of hope and encouragement. Every month we will recommend several that we find to be exceptional.

Click on the titles below and go directly to for detailed information, reviews about the book and the author plus the ability to place orders.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life [Paperback]Martin E. P. Seligman (Author) ISBN-10: 1400078393
ISBN-13: 978-1400078394

Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud (Author) & David Messing (Illustrator) ISBN-10: 0978507517 & ISBN-13: 978-0978507510

You can also listen a pod cast of Carol’s interview with last months’s Guest Author, Liz Adamson. After Liz completed the filming of her one-woman play, Journey, she and Carol sat down to discuss the nature of hope. Click the link below to listen to this fascinating conversation. 

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Food For Thought

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.

- by Dolly Parton