The donors: Rochelle and Rick DeClute

The gift: Creating Light Up The Beach

The cause: Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital

The reason: To support mental-health and addiction services

A casual chat with a neighbour 12 years ago led siblings Rochelle and Rick DeClute to become the Kris Kringles of their neighbourhood in Toronto.

The DeClutes live in the Beaches area of the city and, one day in 2007, a neighbour lamented the lack of Christmas lights along the nearby boardwalk. Mr. DeClute seized on the idea and began figuring out how to put lights on trees adjacent to the walkway. After securing city permits and help from Toronto Hydro, the DeClutes covered the cost of lighting a handful of trees. A few dozen people attended the first Light Up The Beach tree-lighting ceremony and they sang a few carols.

The event has grown enormously and today up to 18 trees are decorated with 80,000 lights. Roughly 4,000 people attend the tree-lighting ceremony and the DeClutes, who run a real estate brokerage company, still cover the costs, which run as high as $65,000. This year’s event was on Friday and the lights will remain on until February.

In 2016, the pair began encouraging people to bring donations to the nearby Michael Garron Hospital to support its mental-health and addiction services. Both DeClutes have family members who suffer from mental-health issues and around $50,000 has been raised in total.

“We didn’t expect this would ever happen,” Ms. DeClute said about the success of the event. “We didn’t ever think that personally we could make an impact. But it’s amazing how everyone together really is making an impact.”

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