The neighbors and residents of La Costa Drive in the City of Brentwood, known for their vast display of Christmas lights, including their “Tunnels of Joy” light tunnels, are set to host a very special fund-raising event this Saturday.
Averie Thompson, a two-year old little girl from Discovery Bay, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma; a rare form of cancer, shortly after she was born. This Saturday’s fundraiser will be in honor of Averie to provide some joy and help to Averie and her family.
“We learned about Averie through a non-profit group that raises money to research pediatric cancer,” said La Costa Drive Neighbor Michelle Smith. “(We) reached out to Averie’s mom a few months ago letting her know we’d like to fund raise in Averie’s honor this year.”
For years, the neighbors on La Costa Drive have put up Christmas lights on their street, creating an elaborate visual display of lights which has gained a steady stream of observers who visit to view and admire all the Christmas lights. Beginning in 2016, one neighbor decided to add a tunnel of lights to their yard, and the following year, asked the other neighbors to do the same. The neighbors were overwhelmingly on board with the idea, and within a week, the tunnels were there, with word spreading and attracting even more people. The tunnels were named after Joy Bursch, a neighbor who lost her battle with cancer in 2009. Neighbors had already displayed lawn ornaments with the name ‘JOY’, however when the tunnels came to fruition, the neighbors decided to name tunnels after Joy as well, and hence, the name “Tunnels of Joy” was born.
This also marks the second consecutive fundraiser held in honor of an individual battling cancer, as a fundraiser was held last year in an effort to raise money for a neighbor’s family member.
“We wanted to carry on the tradition of helping someone local who has cancer and using the platform of our Christmas lights to help raise money,” said Smith. “It’s our small way of giving back to someone in our own community.”
The Tunnels of Joy and La Costa Drive Christmas lights are currently open to the public now and will be through December 31. However, those interested in visiting the Tunnels of Joy on Saturday December 22 should be aware that La Costa Drive will be closed to all vehicular traffic on Saturday night from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
Due to potential parking difficulties near La Costa Drive, it is strongly recommended for people to park further away towards the bottom of Deer Ridge, and then to walking up to La Costa and the surrounding streets.
“All other evenings, you can either park and walk, or you can drive through,” said Smith. “So while anyone is able to drive through La Costa and see the lights on any other night in December, Saturday’s fundraiser is geared solely towards getting out, walking the tunnels, and enjoying the event.”
For those interested in donating to Averie, a donation box will be present on La Costa Drive any evening through December 23, including this Saturday evening. There will be a variety of different activities and entertainment planned for the evening, including face painting, vendors, food trucks, and professional photographers taking pictures with Santa.
“Those photos will be 1 for $5 or 3 for $10, with tickets available at the street entry,” said Smith. “In addition to those items, we have three choirs performing throughout the evening – Studio 26 Glee Club, The Peter Pan Foundation, and the Heritage High School Choir. All of them are generously giving their time to our event, strictly to help encourage donations to our box nearby.”
While all proceeds from the fundraising event will go directly to Averie and her parents Ricky and Cassie Thompson, Smith noted that the importance of this event goes beyond the money raised for Averie and her family.
“It’s our small way of enhancing the spirit of community,” added Smith. “Everyone is coming together, sharing time with neighbors and friends among the lights, and working together to help someone local. For us, it’s what the Christmas season is all about.”
An avid bay area sports fan, Sean’s favorite teams include the 49ers, Giants, Sharks, and Warriors.