Wilson Family Christmas Lights show is more than meets the eye

Display shines in memory of Colbie A. Daywalt, who lost his battle with cancer at age 7

December 08, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER |
  • The Wilson Family Lights are on display most at 490 Starr Ave. in Chambersburg, Pa. The display is in memory of Colbie A. Daywalt, who lost his battle with cancer at age 7, and all donations collected from visitors are given to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — There are Christmas lights and then there's the Wilson Family Christmas Lights with more than 80,000 separate beams that could possibly guide Santa's sleigh to Chambersburg.

But the visual beauty is just the obvious aspect of the display. The display is in memory of Colbie A. Daywalt, who lost his battle with cancer at age 7, and all donations collected from visitors are given to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

When Trevor Johns, 27, of Chambersburg, decided to decorate his grandmother LaWanda Wilson's house at 490 Starr Ave. last year it was a labor of love in Colbie's memory.

"We were cousins, but he was like a little brother to me. Colbie inspired me. It didn't matter what people looked like, how they dressed or if they were just different — he would respect them for who they were. He always found the good in everyone," said Johns, who was 13 when Colbie passed.

The loss of his little sidekick is still difficult 14 years later.

"It was devastating when I lost him; it's still hard," Johns said. "He's changed so many lives in his short seven years on this earth."

Even talking about Colbie brings tears to John's eyes.

In honor of Colbie, Johns and his five hard-working elves — Phillip Krieger, Patti Putney, Robert Putney, LaWanda Wilson and Emilie Daywalt — started Wilson Family Lights.

Last year they strung 65,000 lights synchronized to favorite holiday music.

This year they upped the ante.

Johns said visitors to Starr Avenue can enjoy a 30-minute light show which includes seven songs.

"They can stay as long as they like or stay for just one song," he said.

While the display is free, Johns hopes that visitors will put a donation in the red box along the road to help St. Jude Children's Research Hospital heal other children battling cancer.

"I love Christmas, Colbie loved Christmas. So, I do this not only to raise money for a good cause but also to bring joy to the community at Christmas," Johns said.

Colbie's mother, Kim Daywalt of Fayetteville, Pa., stops by the Christmas extravaganza as often as she can.

Usually you'll find her handing out candy canes, hot cocoa or cookies.

"Through this, his memory is living on. He touched so many lives. He did a lot in those seven years," she said. "I can see him smiling down."

Not only is Colbie's picture flashed on a slideshow in the background, but his favorite character Snoopy plays a prominent role in the show.

"Come out. It's a great way to spend time with family, enjoy the holidays and make some memories — and the donations go to a great cause," she said.

Last year, Wilson Family Lights raised $4,000. This year they hope to double that amount.

"There's nothing like this light show in this area. You can sit in your car, tune the radio to 90.9 FM, and stay nice and warm," said Kathy Krieger of Chambersburg. "Or, you can get out and have family time. That's what it's all about, family."

The display features 16,800 lights on the arch at the entrance to the driveway, 14,400 lights on the mega tree, 3,600 icicle lights, 3,000 piano key lights, 600 lights on 35 individual sticks and non-stop Christmas music for at least three hours.

Neighbor Julie Lehman has no complaints.

"I love it. I give him 100 percent of all the work he's done," said Lehman, who lives catty-corner from the show.

She is amazed at the work that goes into the display.

Johns said work on the show begins immediately after the 2011 light show ends and next September the task of untangling and stringing the lights will begin for the Wilson Family Lights show 2012.

There are many reasons Johns, who lives in Dover, Pa., and works as a personal care assistant, spends his spare time on the display.

People like Michael Shaffer, of Chambersburg, are part of the reason.

Shaffer made a donation to St. Jude's and took in all the sights before sharing his story.

"I'm a cancer survivor. So, this kind of stuff really touches me," said Shaffer, who plans to come back.

Wilson Family Lights can be seen through January 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thurday and from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

More information is available at

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