Thursday, November 20, 2012
With the Christmas season getting closer by the day, a holiday favorite for Wichitans of all ages made its annual test run Tuesday night.
The Lights on St. Paul open to the public Thanksgiving night, but supporters of the attraction and clients of The Arc of Sedgwick County got a sneak peak at this year's display.
This Christmas tradition is also an important fundraiser and one that has gained hundreds of thousands of fans during its 15 years.
"They continue to change it every year so that it's always new and fresh and so if you've been to it before, it's another great time to come because it's never the same," said Ronda Maass, a contributor and fan.
The Lights on St. Paul provide much more than the opportunity to enjoy the Christmas season. The display also provides the chance to support the programs of The Arc.
"We serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and a lot of our families need a lot of different types of support," said Kevin Fish, The Arc's executive director. "It is by far our biggest fundraiser and one of our most important to help us continue programs that we offer that are either free or very low-cost for our families."
Some of The Arc's programs include socialization programs that provide individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to develop social relationships and the Circle of Friends program. That mentoring program has been implemented in 60 schools and matches special needs students with their peers to establish positive relationships in those schools.
It is easy to support The Arc's programs. Just turn north at Douglas and St. Paul, follow the lights and enjoy.
"We don't ask for a fee," Fish said. "It's just a donation, but the community has been very generous and we hope they can do that again this year."
Those donations become more important each year, Fish said, as the weak economy makes it harder for people and charitable foundations to make large contributions to The Arc. Sources of federal, state and local funding are also becoming more scarce, he aid.
The Lights on St. Paul will be open from Thanksgiving to Dec. 28. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5:30 p.m. to 11:55 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Maass said The Lights on St. Paul are a cause she will continue to support and enjoy.
"My grandkids love to come," she said. "It's amazing to see all the different displays and it's just a wonderful time of year."
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