On Saturday, Jan. 9, as volunteers dismantled and removed light displays at Evansville’s Garvin Park, the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center released an estimate of net proceeds raised by the most recent Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights. The nonprofit organization estimates the 27th annual light show raised $240,167 – a record amount – between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, making it the best year ever despite being in the midst of the pandemic. In the 27 years of the event, net proceeds have now reached more than $3.89 million to underwrite therapy services at the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center.
An approximate total of 17,466 vehicles (including horse-drawn carriages) drove through this year’s display. That’s 6,000 more than in 2019 and very close to the record amount of vehicles set in 1997! Easterseals estimates this year’s proceeds will help to underwrite as many as 4,803 therapy sessions for local children and adults with disabilities who otherwise couldn’t afford those services.
This year’s total also included a record-breaking approximately $35,714 in extra donations from Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights visitors, above and beyond their admission fees. Throughout the 37-night event, the community showed up again and again to support the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center while viewing the holiday lights from the safety of their own vehicles.
The success of Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights is more important than ever this year due to the pandemic’s impact on donations and other fundraising efforts. Easterseals was forced to cancel and scale back several fundraisers in recent months. The “Bright Lights for Easterseals” 5K and 1-Mile Walk was just one of many events that couldn’t be held. At the same time, Easterseals faced higher expenses and client families needed more assistance. The community’s exceptional support of Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights will help to offset part of the deficit, allowing Easterseals to continue providing local individuals with the life-changing services they need.
On Jan. 9, hard-working volunteers from Teamsters Local 215, IBEW Local 16, NECA, and Electrical JATC received a thank-you lunch from the event’s title sponsor, Ritzy’s, as they took down the displays for storage. The annual fundraising event and holiday tradition wouldn’t be possible without the expertise and time donated by members of those groups. Additionally, Easterseals wants to thank all the companies, community organizations, and private families who volunteered throughout the event amid the ongoing health crisis.
Easterseals offers a sliding fee scale for medical rehabilitation services. Each year, the nonprofit relies on donations and fundraising to underwrite thousands of sessions of physical, occupational, and speech therapy, audiology, and psychology services. The nonprofit headquartered at 3701 Bellemeade Avenue provides a wide range of services to approximately 5,000 individuals from 30 area counties.
The 28th annual Ritzy's Fantasy of Lights is already being planned. It will open on Thanksgiving night and will run through New Year’s Day. Companies, organizations, churches and families interested in sponsoring a light display are invited to contact Easterseals Director of Special Events, Carolyn Franklin, at 812.437.2607.
Major sponsors are Ritzy’s, IBEW Local 16, NECA, Teamsters Local 215, Electrical JATC, International Union of Painters & Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 156, ABC 25 / CW 7, Evansville Living, Tools 4 Teaching, Kenny Kent Chevrolet, 104.1 WIKY, HOT96, 93.5 The Lloyd, and 107.5 WABX. Special thanks to the Evansville Department of Parks & Recreation for their continued support of Ritzy's Fantasy of Lights in Garvin Park. Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights was presented in compliance with guidelines and approval of the Vanderburgh County Health Department.