Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 | 12:58 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
With the holidays over and the lights now out, the numbers are in for how the Gift of Lights Festival and the charitable organizations associated with it fared this year.
Event organizer Chris Meehan said about 26,000 vehicles this year made their way along the festively lit pathway at Sunset Park between Nov. 14 and Jan. 4, a number down 6 percent from last year.
The difference between this year and last, according to Meehan, was the weather.
“We would’ve been up 5 to 6 percent if we had been open all of the nights we had planned,” he said.
Meehan said the usual number of weather-induced closures for the festival is two.
“This year we had to close for four rain nights and two snow nights,” he said.
The closures, however, didn’t keep festival attendants from collecting about 5,000 $2 discount coupons, which were given to festival attendees in exchange for a donation to Goodwill of Southern Nevada.
President and CEO of Goodwill of Southern Nevada Steve Chartrand said the large number of donations that the event brings in each year come at just the right time.
“It’s our largest donation drive of the year,” he said. “We count on it to help us during a very critical time of the year.”
The proceeds made by the sale of the items donated go to support Goodwill in its mission to provide job training and placement for people who have job barriers.
As the largest drive of the year, the festival plays a huge role in making the fulfillment of that mission possible.
“Their support has helped us to place 811 people into jobs this year,” Chartrand said.
In addition to Goodwill, the event also helps support local Boy Scouts and Clark County Parks and Recreation.
Gift of Lights Volunteer Service Coordinator Dennis Simon said about $18,000 was raised this year for the five boy scout troops, one girl scout troop and Liberty High School athletic group that sold hot chocolate, cider and eggnog during the event.
“We used over 20,000 cups,” he said.
Kevin Lee, the troop leader for Silverado-based Troop 746, said during the three nights his boys manned the sales tent, they were able to raise $1,000 that will go toward helping the group make a trip to Camp Mataguay in San Diego.
It was a good experience for the boys to help earn their own way to camp and not just ask mom and dad to pay for them, he said.
As for how Clark County Parks and Recreation benefits from the festival, Brian Saliba, program administrator with the county, said the county receives at least $50,000 from the festival.
Saliba said the money goes to fund parks and recreation programming and scholarships.
“A portion will be used to offset the scholarship fund, which is set up to pay for classes for residents who, because of low income, cannot afford to participate in the offerings of the departments at the community centers,” he said.
In addition to the scouts and the county, the event this year also for the first time helped support the Children’s Heart Foundation.
A walk-through fundraising event (a first for the festival) was held Nov. 12.
The festival organizers will continue next season on a mission that was started during the set up this year.
Probably about 20 percent of the lights were converted to LED lights this year, Meehan said. Next year, he said, substantially more displays will be changed to keep things brighter, better and more fun as well as save on energy costs.
Ashley Livingston can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].