The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Community

November 30, 2013

A million lights for a good cause

KOKOMO, Ind. — It started out on a single lot on Kokomo’s north side in 1995 and over the past 18 years has grown to more than one million Christmas lights.

The donations from the We Care Park display, the dream of business owner Mike Wyant, goes to benefit the local charity that helps provide Christmas presents to local youngsters, clothing and food. It has raised more than $500,000 for the charity.

Long before you arrive at the intersection of Gano Street and Apperson Way the brilliant displays illuminate the sky.

There are fire-breathing dragons, helicopters, amusement rides including a Ferris wheel, a large stuffed bear, Santa’s House including Santa and Mrs. Claus and archways over the streets and alleys.

In a garage next to Wyant’s home, there is a remembrance of the men and women who have served in the U.S. military.

From that single lot that Wyant purchased in 1995 the display of Christmas lights has grown to include an entire city block and most of the surrounding homes.

It’s a display that has garnered national attention on the “Today” show and been featured on the “Around Indiana” show on the Indiana Public Broadcasting stations.

Wyant and his flock of “elves” provide hot chocolate to visitors, candy canes and toys for every child who comes to view the display.

Every year Wyant and his crew of volunteers add new features to the display. This year the addition is lights strung across Gano Street. Additional lighted trees, three crosses and a Nativity house.

How much does it cost and who foots the electrical bill? Wyant said his wife pays the light bill and never tells him how much it costs.

Volunteers start setting up the displays in August with more than 8,000 extension cords that connect to five electric meters.

Wyant is on the hunt year round looking for outdoor lighting bargains to add to the display.

One of 16 children, Wyant said his family struggled to even afford a Christmas tree at times, but the family always enjoyed the twinkling lights during the holidays.

Sharing is a part of the success story of We Care Park. Local businesses have made donations, a restaurant donates the hot chocolate and every year the privilege of turning on the lights on Thanksgiving Day night is auctioned off with the money going to the charity.

“When you see a kid,” Wyant said of choosing a toy off the tree, “you know that that’s the only thing he’s going to get for Christmas – that means something.”

Wyant is quick to point out that the annual light display would not be possible without the volunteers who help with the set-up and at the park through much of the month of December.

The alley has been named to honor the Wyant family and he has received a Sagamore of the Wabash from the state for his efforts.

“I’ll do this as long as I can,” Wyant said. He is already grooming his grandson to continue the holiday tradition.

Follow Ken de la Bastide @KendelaBastide on Twitter, or call 640-4863.

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