30 thousand points of light on Naticook Avenue
LITCHFIELD - A Campbell High School junior is combining his career goals of becoming a movie set designer or an electrician with a passion for Christmas lights in a holiday season campaign to raise funds for the New Hampshire Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Josh Letourneau, 16, says 30,000 bulbs will light up his family home and grounds on Naticook Avenue through New Year's Day, in the hope that a procession of holiday light enthusiasts driving by will make a donations.
"On of my best friends has been diagnosed with cancer and Make-a-Wish helped him out," Letourneau said. "I want to go above and beyond for them."
The home at 3 Naticook Avenue has always had an extensive Christmas light display. But on Dec. 26 last year, Letourneau went out and bought up left-over Christmas lights at post-season prices.
"I have big lights, little lights, LEDs, incandescents - you name it, I have it," Letourneau said. "I started putting them up Nov. 1 and just finished (Friday)."
The Letourneau family home sits on two acres. The display includes a large Santa flying in a helicopter, arches over the driveway that blink in time to music, animatrons with moving Christmas themes, lighted doves perched in the trees and antique lamp posts festooned with lights.
He hopes the display will entice holiday travelers to take a ride to Naticook Avenue for a look. He will be standing outside with a donation can that he says won't be opened until the Make-a-Wish executives are with him after Jan. 1.
"I've got a one-foot-tall by one-foot wide container sealed with two-and-one-half inch screws that won't be opened until they're here with me," he said. "I kind of want it to be a surprise."
Make-A-Wish New Hampshire administrators said they are glad to have the help.
"Josh approached us and said 'I would like to so something to give back to the kids,'" said Jason Tremblay, the group's director of philanthropy. "He called and happened to mention that a friend of his has a Make-a-Wish coming up and he wanted to volunteer locally."
The organization helped 85 youngsters with life-threatening illnesses in its last fiscal year, and for the year running through next August expects to serve another 106. The average wish costs about $10,000.
Funds raised in New Hampshire stay here, Tremblay said.
Letourneau's display will be spread over the family's house and yard and is bright enough to be noticed.
"The neighbors who live next to me say it looks like sunlight," he said. "My neighbors love it."
Public Service Company may be fond of the display as well, since the less-extensive displays of years past have boosted December electric bills by about $300.
The high school junior said he works three jobs to cover the costs, which included $700 for the lights bought at the after- Christmas clearance sales. He works at a Nashua Honda agency, a marketing firm hired by the area Pepsi bottlers and a nearby golf course.
It feeds a passion he has felt since he was an infant.
A favorite family photograph features young Josh, then about 2, swaddled in wraps featuring Christmas lights.
Comparisons are inevitable to the fictional Clark W. Griswold Jr., the Christmas-crazed character in the film "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" whose obsession with Christmas lights becomes mired in a mass of tangled light strings, dead bulbs and a failing power grid.
As with Griswold, the Letourneau family Christmas began with imitations of a drum roll. But life did not completely imitate art.
"My lights lit up without any flaw," Letourneau said.
To keep the lights burning brightly, he has also seized on a device with unbounded potential for saving decorations, sanity and perhaps a marriage or two - a gizmo that quickly repairs strings of LED lights disabled by dead bulbs.
The circuits have been checked and the display will be turned on nightly at about 5 o'clock. Naticook Avenue is off of state Route 3A in Litchfield, about a quarter mile from the Passaconaway Country Club.
Tremblay, of Make-A-Wish, said he hopes the display will raise money, but also raise the awareness of the services the organization provides to stricken youngsters and their families.
"The holiday season and the spirit of giving means a busy season when everyone wants do so something," Tremblay said. "Josh was able to marry his lifestyle with his desire to help kids battling a life-threatening medical condition."
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