06/04/2012 03:33 pm ET

Children's Memorial Hospital Hosts Emotional Vigil Before Launching New Lurie Facility

Before the ribbons were cut on the new Lurie Children's Hospital Monday, former patients and families gathered at the old site for a vigil to reflect on decades of battles fought and lives lost within the old facility's walls.

Hospital staff organized a "closing reception" at the hospital's old Lincoln Park location Sunday afternoon for bereaved families, many of whom spent weeks or months living at the old location during their children's lengthy stays, according to WLS. Hospital chaplain Jim Manzardo dedicated a crabapple tree planted in a nearby park to honor the patients who've been cared for at the hospital since its opening in 1882.

For many families who lost children after extended treatments at the hospital, the space plays a key role in keeping their memories alive, parents told the Chicago Sun-Times. Many arrived at the event with memorial photos, t-shirts and mementos and some cried during speeches about the site's significance.

“Now it is time to send off the building,” said Michelle Mascaro, manager of Kohl's House, which houses the families of patients, according to the Sun-Times. “This place is a reminder of memory, but it is not the memory...The memory of your child is with you, wherever you are.”

On Monday the $855 million Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago opened the doors to its new Streeterville location at 225 E. Chicago, according to WGN. The expansion project was funded in part by a $100 million gift in 2007 from philanthropist Ann Lurie.

Patients will begin to be transferred to the new location Saturday, a process that could take up to 18 hours, according to the Associated Press.

Flickr photo by Zol87.

Tour the new patient experience at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago: