Earlier this month, the OLG team bundled up and volunteered at the 17th Annual Fantasy of Lights in Franke Park. For those of you not familiar with Fantasy of Lights, it’s a spectacular presentation of approximately 70 holiday light displays that you view from your nice warm vehicle, for a mile and a half stretch in Franke Park. This program is sponsored by AWS Foundation, a not-for-profit grantmaking foundation. Fantasy of Lights had its first annual opening in 1995 and was created to raise funds to support programs for children and adults with disabilities. Since then, it has become an annual tradition.
OLG volunteered at the event last year, so we jumped at the opportunity to help support such a great cause again this year. We had a fun night of passing out programs, spreading holiday cheer, directing traffic with the flashlight batons and singing along to some Christmas tunes. Equipped with hand warmers, we were able to stay toasty warm and have a great time helping out. And it didn’t hurt that there was complimentary hot chocolate and delicious sweet treats for the volunteers as well.
But perhaps the highlight of the evening was an extra special holiday reunion that we were fortunate enough to witness. Joel Blair, Army Specialist with the 2-152 CAV A Troop, had just returned home to Fort Wayne that evening from an eight-month tour in Iraq. In the spirit of the holidays, he decided that Fantasy of Lights provided the perfect set for surprising his two little girls, six-year-old Jade and four-year-old Kae-lani. With his wife, Samantha, he planned this special surprise for his little girls. Pictured, Jade and Kae-lani pose with the flowers they received from their dad, Joel along side mom, Samantha.
Lynne Gilmore, executive director of the AWS Foundation, hosts the annual holiday event. According to Lynne, Fantasy of Lights has seen marriage proposals and wedding anniversary surprises, but never a reunion quite like this one. They had no idea this was in the works. Lynne ran into Joel as she was going through the park before opening. When she heard his plan, she knew exactly where the reunion should occur and helped him orchestrate his plan. Read the full press release from AWS Foundation to learn more about Joel’s surprise homecoming.
So if you haven’t checked out the 17th Annual Fantasy of Lights display yet, you still have time. Christmas may have passed but this spectacular display will be up until December 31st and it’s open every evening from 6PM – 9PM (open until 10PM Friday & Saturday).
Visit the Fantasy of Lights website for more details and be sure to check it out! Also, be sure to check back soon, because we’ll be posting a new video on the Fantasy of Lights website that captures some of this year’s exciting updates.