Thanks to the generosity of two Jacksonville businessmen and a host of benevolent supporters, more than 20,000 Christmas lights adorned the palm trees and perimeter of San Marco’s Ronald McDonald House, bringing the holiday spirit to both the families it serves and the neighborhood beyond.
Billy Frick of American Electrical Contracting Inc. and Donald McGowan of Anything Under the Sun Services LLC spent more than two weeks installing the light display outside the house, in its interior courtyard, and high above in the rooftop garden, said Carol Harrison, development director. The lights were switched on with great fanfare in front of a huge crowd during a Hot Chocolate Happy Hour Social Nov. 29.
“We are lighting up the house inside and outside,” said Ronald McDonald House Executive Director Diane Boyle. “This is an idea that was birthed after Hurricane Irma, when the whole San Marco area was impacted. We wanted to do something that could make a difference for the community. It took a year to put this together, but we thought Christmas was the perfect time to light up the house.”
The ability to flick the switch would not have been possible without the efforts of Frick and McGowan, who gave their time and the lights pro bono to the effort, said Harrison.
“They have spent weeks here. It’s an enormous amount of labor and love to decorate this house,” she said. “They have turned the courtyard into a winter wonderland.”
Harrison also credited Dillard’s department store for providing Christmas trees inside the house, and volunteers from the Red Shoe Crew, Eco Lab, Johnson and Johnson, and Voya Financial for decorating the interior. The Deercreek Women’s Alliance also worked hard raising funds to support the event, she said. For each $5 donation, a light was put on the house and as additional funds came in lights were added until the end of December, she said.
The goal was to raise $30,000 through the lighting portion of the fundraiser, said Boyle. “We want to commemorate our 30 years in Jacksonville and the fact that we have served over 35,000 families and counting,” she said. “We are just glad we can be here for our families.”
The Hot Chocolate Happy Hour event was a prelude to Ronald McDonald’s Light Up the House 5K and Family Day Festival Dec. 1. More than 270 runners, and 17 teams donned red and white striped socks to compete in the 5K race and 1-mile fun run, raising more than $73,820 and adding approximately 14,764 lights to the house. Included at the festival were special guest appearances from story book characters, games, arts and crafts, face painting, balloon art and more.
By Marcia Hodgson