Monday, December 31, 2007

Jolly Holiday Lights

Last evening Danene and I drove into Des Moines to Waterworks Park and toured the Jolly Holiday Lights display which is an annual fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation of Iowa. For the past couple of years, I have helped with this event and have really come to enjoy it. The Iowa Chapter of CPCU always takes a night and helps out taking money and handing out the program brochures at the gate.

This is a great organization that helps so many kids and their families. A lot of people think of Make a Wish as only helping those children that are terminally ill, that is not necessarily the case. Thankfully many of the children that are helped go on to lead full and productive lives.

Here are just a few interesting facts about Jolly Holiday Lights:

* the average cost for one wish in 2007 was $8,200

* it takes an average of 800 cars driving through Jolly Holiday Lights to grant one wish

* each light display can take up to 3 hours to assemble and altogether they require nearly 3.5 miles of extension cords

* Jolly Holiday Lights depends on over 5000 volunteer hours

Over the past 12 years over 1.5 million central Iowans and visitors have made Jolly Holiday Lights one of their holiday traditions, driving through the 2.8 miles of lighted winter wonderland. Over $2 million dollars has been raised and over 400 wishes have been granted. This year the goal is to raise $350,000 and help grant 50 wishes.

One of my favorites last night was the carousel with dancing reindeers. A perenial favorite of mine is the lighted snowflakes hoisted high in the trees, this scene is so peaceful to look at.

I thought one of the wishes that was portrayed in this year's program book was particularly neat. A little boy named Alex had his wish granted when he and his family went to Washington D.C. They ate in a D.C. restaurant (where there meal was donated). The family had been told they would be given a tour of Washington, they were not told how...until a presidential motorcade passed the restaurant they were standing outside. Alex was pretty impressed with that, but he was really impressed when the motorcade did a "u turn" and came back to pick him and his family up. The family was actually driven around down in one of the president's own limousines.

Alex was met at the Pentagon by a real life Admiral. At each of the monuments they visited, as the motorcade pulled up the secret service agents held the crowd back and Alex was escorted through. He was introduced as "president of the day" and everywhere he went he received a round of applause. When they got to the White House, he was given a personal tour of the West Wing and got to spend time with "Barney" and "Beasley", the "first" dogs. He even had his picture taken in the press room behind the podium.

Alex's mother quoted in her letter: "The people were amazing--they each gave their time, but gave so much more in the messages they gave to Alex about courge, bravery, spirituality, strength, resilence and character! So many people that night prayed for Alex--a true gift! A MAGICAL NIGHT!

Check out to learn more about this great organization.

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