Many of us take time before the New Year to take down the Christmas tree and decorations and pack them away. There are some that decorate their homes in elaborate ways like Clark Griswald in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where every inch of his house was covered in lights. Ponder this before you pack away all your Christmas decorations; there are some that share the Christmas season for all to see and experience. So, before you take down all your Christmas lights consider IWU alum Eric and his wife Kristen. While taking elaborate steps in decorating their home and displaying festive lights on into the New Year, they do so with a special fundraising cause!
Eric and Kristen Greenwald are from Huntersville, NC who have for several years have decorated their home into one of the most sought after Christmas displays in the area. Using over 21,000 holiday lights choreographed to Christmas music and taking up to six-weeks to put up, they have transformed their home into a Christmas display. It brings brings smiles and amazement to all who see it and it raises money for a special charity.
Eric is a graduate of IWU with a double degree in Marketing and Business Administration. In 2007 he married Kristen who graduated from Central Michigan University. She helps him with the incredible task of connecting and assembling the elaborate synchronized show of lights. Today Eric works in the Digital Marketing department with the Bank of America and manages all of their digital videos. He is active in his community and participates in the Bank of America volunteer day. Eric says that this open his “eyes to the need our community has and it’s a great team building experience.”
In 2013, the display won a national award for the “Most Creative Display” from Tacky Light Tour, a well-known website that lists displays and holds annual competitions. (Read more here) This year they topped their display with an opportunity to donate to a local organization that helps homeless children. The organization is called A Child’s Place. (Read more here) A Child’s Place (ACP) works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education. According to the Greenwald’s; “As of December 28th, you have given $2,445.94 to A Child’s Place. This total is beyond our wildest expectations for our first year collecting donations, and we want to thank each and every one who has donated to A Child’s Place.” (Read more here) His goal was to raise $750. Eric tells me that as of today, New Year’s eve “the fund is up to $2,616.54.” It is hard to know how many cars actually drive by his decorated home but Eric says;
I look out the window and I would be happy if I saw one car enjoying the music and lights. This year, I was outside on the weekends directing traffic, with four cars always watching the show, and a line of anywhere between four to nine cars waiting to be able to watch.
It is impressive enough to think that his hard work is helping children who have extreme needs but Eric further shared with me that he hopes to have a Christian witness as well. He says that there are two connections he hopes people make.
The first and most obvious, is that our display features a nativity scene. But not every kid knows what this is. I have heard kids call it many different things (they aren’t familiar with the proper term ‘nativity scene’), which opens the door for their parents or myself to explain what the silhouetted figures are, and what they represent.
Second, viewing Christmas lights are a great family activity – and it’s free! A majority of vehicles that stop by are minivans or SUVs full of kids. I remember as a kid my parents taking me around town looking at lights. With the true meaning of Christmas being lost on buying presents, receiving the right presents, etc., (I hope that it is a) quality family time (that does not) get forgotten.
IWU Alumni are making a difference; they are making this world a better place as World Changers. Their faith is interwoven into their story. When asked about his IWU college experience he said;
Attending IWU was a great experience. I came in as a transfer from a state school, and I wished I had gone to IWU all four years.
I met incredible friends, who I still am close with today. The staff pushed me to my potential, which I didn’t receive at the previous school. Being surrounded with a fellowship of Christian believers built a Godly foundation for me and contributed to who I am today.
Eric shared with me that he hopes that this is a tradition that will continue. At first he was motived by the competition to have the biggest and best display. He continued;
When I switched to the animated display, I saw cars pull up with kids hanging out of all windows possible (including sunroofs), clapping, singing and some are even brave enough to dance in my driveway to the music and lights. Kids and families love the lights and I am humbled that I am on their list of yearly traditions. Now, the lights have turned into a way where the viewers can give back by donating to A Child’s Place.
You can read more here.