Ken and Julia Berry’s Christmas House on the Country Club Boulevard is changing up in style and donation destination this year.
With the closing of the 139 Children’s Fundraising Society earlier this year Ken says funds raised by their popular themed Christmas House will be donated to the Central Cariboo Child Development Centre.
He says CDC president Jerry Tickner has assured him that every dollar donated will continue to go to kids, “so that’s a good thing.”
Ken and his wife Julia have been decorating their home at 142 Country Club Blvd. for 26 years, the past 15 as a charitable fundraiser for the 139 Children’s Fundraising Society. For many years the society has been dedicated to helping with the cost of medical travel for families with sick children. But with health problems of their own to deal with, the society managers Greg and Donna Ashley have not been able to continue the work and no one has come forward to take over the society.
Ken and Julia started the penguin theme Christmas decorations with their son Geoff and daughter Kate back in 1999 and the displays have grown steadily more elaborate every year to include penguins sledding, a hockey rink, Santa’s tree house, Santa’s workshop, Penguin Express Train, and more.
Julia was quality control, Geoff helped with the building, and Kate kept the displays looking great, Ken says.
“There are now three generations working on the lights and figure,” Ken says.
When their grandchildren come for Christmas he says they help to assemble the reindeer who pull Santa’s sleigh in the front yard.
Other the past few years, Ken says he has just been working on repairing and repainting the existing figures, but this year he is introducing three new groups of characters.
The new scenes this year will include eight penguins singing and playing in the Sgt. Penguins Lively Yuletide Band.
The figures are based on the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album and come complete with the Sgt. Pepper uniforms and drum.
There is also a quartet of singing penguins which he is calling Little Anthony and the Imperials.
There are also three little praying angels who will be making their debut and where originally designed by retired educator, Ken’s former students at Nesika Elementary.
Julia has also been busy repairing the Gingerbread House with the addition of new candies and candy canes.
Julia, who is a Brownie leader, also made a special request to have a little Brownie Penguin complete with badge and sash included in the scenes.
Ken and Julia estimate it takes 150 hours to put up all the lights and scenes for the display spread over two-and-a-half months leading up to Christmas.
“As soon as golfing is over the preparation begins,” Ken says.
In their first year of raising funds for charity back in 1999 the Berry’s Christmas House raised $800. Their goal that year was to raise just $100. Encouraged by that success they continued the tradition and have now raised close to $18,000 over the years. Ken’s goal if to bring the total to $20,000 over the next couple of years.
For the past four years, Ken has also had help with fundraising in the off-season from his golfing friends who bring him their found golf balls to sell for the cause. People can pick up some “experienced golf balls” with a donation of 50 cents per ball at #9 Fairway.
Ken says his neighbours are very understanding and tolerate the line-ups of cars who come to see the displays and some even send out hot chocolate to Ken on the cold snowy days wile he is working.
“Many great things have happened on the sidewalks of the Christmas House, carollers coming singing, wedding proposals are made, and Santa sometimes shows up and people just visit on the sidewalk,” Ken says. “It’s a great tradition to start or maintain and the proceeds all go to a great cause.”
Lights at the Berry’s Christmas House will be turned on this Friday, Nov. 29 and be turned on every night from 5 to 11 p.m. each day until at least Jan. 4.
After Friday, Nov. 29, Ken says new venues will be popping up every other day, even past Christmas Day so regular visits will result in different lighting scenes and colours.
Donations can be placed in the newly re-painted and lighted bird house next to the sidewalk.