Based on the results we had with fund raising at the end of 2011, I arranged to meet with the fire company in October; well in advance of starting the holiday season so that we could plan out what we would do in 2012. Because we had raised $8,500 in really just 5 nights, I was hopeful that we would be able to raise close to $15,000 for the whole 2012 season. When we met in October, I gave them a calendar which indicated which nights they should plan on being present for fund raising. I also requested that we make a contribution to The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie; which was already an organization I supported through my own donations. They also shared with me details on how they had used donations from the previous season. This included helping several victims of cancer, families that experienced home fires, educational supplies for local schools, and even buying several generators to donate to other fire companies in the NYC area following hurricane Sandy – it’s important to highlight that the fire company doesn’t recognize any geographic boundaries when it comes to helping those in need. Seriously, you couldn’t meet a finer group of unselfish people – hours and hours of their time, to help others. It’s so inspiring, and I’m so glad to expose myself and my family to this.
Once the lights fired up on November 23rd, we had one endless stream of fun. More than any other year, it was like a month long party. It was also an extremely challenging year; right after Thanksgiving, I learned that my Mom was terminal with lung cancer. My Mom had smoked her whole life, and at age 86, this was not a huge surprise. But it was much ‘harder’ than I had imagined; there really is no one like your Mom. In my case, it’s really important to point out that it was my mother who instilled the ‘magic’ of the holiday season in me. It really is because of that, that this light display ever came to be; when Emily was born, I wanted to make the holidays magical for my children as well. My mother defied all odds and made it thorough the Holiday season. She passed in peace on January 3rd, 2013 and I am convinced she made it through the holidays simply because she did not want to ‘tarnish’ her favorite time of the year for any that she left behind. God bless you, Mom, and thank you Mom, for all that you gave to so many.
Chris Valdez did a nice story on our light display, and ran it on the front page of the Poughkeepsie Journal. My favorite was the headline: ‘Out of this World’, which came from our town supervisor, Lisette Hitsman. You have our thanks, Lisette. You can see the article at the bottom of this page.
We visited our friends at K104, Woodman, Annie and Bill. A lot of what happened in 2012 happened because of them and I cannot thank them enough . First, they helped support our special event on Dec 15th – which was the night we raised funds specifically for The Children’s Home. The UVFD, decided, rather than making a set donation to The Children’s Home, they would dedicate 1 night to them. We received total donations of $5,760, and presented the check to the home the following week. It was really a pleasure and Woodman and Annie joined us, and the UVFD in delivering the check.
When the tragedy occurred in Newtown, Woodman contacted me and asked that we do a special dedication night for them. Dan McMorris suggested that we donate the proceeds directly to the Sandy Hook Fire Department as they would best know how to use the money and this would ensure 100% of the proceeds would go directly to the effected community. So the following Saturday night, 12/22 we dedicated the night to Sandy Hook. It was truly incredible. Woodman, with audience participation, determined the 3 special songs we ran that night. They were, Angle, by Sarah McLauhlan, Hero, by Maria Carey, and Silent Night, by a child’s choir from NYC. Emily did a voice over for each song, reading the names of the victims. Dan McMorris handled the traffic flow and filed the plans with the county and the Sheriff’s office, and touchingly, 1st Assistant Fire Chief, Kevin Stoyak, attended, along with his family. We parked his Sandy Hook truck at the exit end of our driveway so that everyone would have a chance to see it when they exited. Late in the evening, my nephew, Chris, proposed to his fiancée, Amanda. They were the 3rd couple to become engaged at our light display. Chris had contacted me mid year with his idea to propose and asked if I would choreograph the song, ‘Book of Love’ by Peter Gabriel. I said, sure, but I suggested that he do the choreographing. He decided to do just that and ended up using the rectangle to spell, “Marry me, Amanda.” It was incredibly touching for all of us and she was so excited. That was a great way to finish an incredible evening; in which $12,395 was collected and given to the Sandy Hook Fire Department.
Back in 2011, when we visited K104 for the first time, Bill Beale had mentioned that the world record for lights on a residential property was 329,000, and held by a family in Australia. At that time, our display was 311,000 lights. I didn’t think much about it, but Grace did. Once we had finalized our new display elements and I had an estimate of about 345,000 lights for 2012, she decided to learn how to file for the record. It turned out to be an exhaustive process (as many of us would become victims of this process), but she persevered, and on January 5th we learned that we were the new Guinness World Record Holders. It was definitely cool, but not as cool as the total amount of donations we received. In 2012, including the $5,760 for the Children’s Home, and the $12,395 for Sandy Hook, the fire company collected a total of $36,835 at our house. The community owes much thanks to John Welsh and Carlos Minas as they were here just about every night to fund raise. That means so much to all of us and we are so happy to be a part of something which helps so many.