Ever-expanding Christmas light show donates $18K to youth sports group
It's been a staple in Wall Township for 10 years: the Christmas Light Show to benefit Lincroft-based nonprofit Challenged Youth Sports. But the event's recent growth is presenting a few obstacles for organizers, who are trying to figure out how to keep both the crowds and the donations rolling in.
The 2015 Christmas Light Show, which took place over three nights earlier in December, yielded a record number of attendees as well as a record amount of donations -- about $18,000 to go toward Challenged Youth Sports, which runs sports leagues specifically designated for children with disabilities.
"They also retrofit playgrounds and play spaces so that everyone can play together," said Daniel Brateris, founder of the light show. "We help pay their insurance. We help pay for equipment that they can't get."
The fundraising figure for this year's show was nearly double that of the 2014 event, which raised almost $10,000. Those funds have increased in tandem with visibility for CYS and its mission in Monmouth and Ocean counties; the group is now looking to extend its reach to a national level after operating locally for 25 years.
Yet while Brateris profusely thanks Wall and its police force for their collaborative efforts over the last decade, he is worried that the growing scope of what is needed for the annual light extravaganza may soon exceed what the town can realistically provide. He said both Wall and his volunteers must provide "substantial" time and resources now, just to keep the event safe.
"When you have thousands and thousands of people descend on a little, quiet neighborhood town, then the logistical concerns, safety concerns become prevalent," Brateris said.
Organizers are considering hiring a traffic management company, or simply relying on the time and manpower of more volunteers, to facilitate crowd control in future years. That, according to Brateris, would need to be accomplished without jeopardizing the donations the event brings in, and making sure every dollar raised gets back to CYS. To begin properly preparing for 2016's light show, those kinds of decisions likely have to be made by early next July.
Still, Brateris said keeping his fundraiser going is a worthwhile effort, considering some of the monetary hardships faced by families who have children involved in CYS.
"It's a huge financial burden, so anything we can do to keep these programs affordable for the families just really makes a big difference in these people's lives," he said.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email email@example.com, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.