Kelso light show raises money for charity, inspires visitors

Sunday, December 25, 2011
Vehicles line up Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 along County Road 208 near Kelso, Mo. where a synchronized holiday musical light show plays at Wanda Clark's house. (Fred Lynch)

KELSO, Mo. -- More than 80,000 lights flash to music at the Clark home near Kelso to celebrate Christmas, to raise money for charity and to remember a Jackson fifth-grader who died in November.

Brandon and Brooks Clark put up the display for the third time this year at their mother's home, beginning work in September and finishing the day before Thanksgiving. Wanda Clark said her sons almost gave up after bad storms caused severe damage but persevered by reminding themselves that they were doing it to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Clark said Friday almost $6,000 in donations have been left by visitors in a decorated mailbox at her home that will be sent to St. Jude, a not-for-profit organization that treats children with cancer at no charge.

One holiday piece transmitted to visitors' car radios is Pachelbel's Canon in D. It is accompanied by lights that spell out, "This song is dedicated to 10 year-old Brody Gard who lost his battle with cancer this year. May his light shine down on us forever."

Clark said her sons heard that Gard, a St. Jude patient, visited the show last year and gave it "two thumbs up." She said visitors have left donations and thanks for how the Clarks have "touched the lives of their families." One particularly heartfelt letter of appreciation was written by a woman from Perryville, Mo., who lost her 4-year-old granddaughter to leukemia in 1985.

Donations for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital are accepted at a box outside the Clark residence next to Scott County Road 208. (Fred Lynch)

"It really humbles you when you receive something like that," Clark said.

Mandi Gard, Brody's mother, planned to visit the lights with her family Christmas Eve. She said the Clarks are connected to them through mutual friends and that she and her family are flattered that her son is memorialized in the display.

"I just feel at a loss for words to show these people how much we appreciate them honoring his memory," Gard said.

Clark said the wet weather has reduced attendance because the electronics cannot function in the rain. The family raised about $11,000 in 2010, and she thinks they will hit that mark again by the end of the year.

Brandon Clark, co-owner of Kluesner Concreters in Kelso, said he and his brother have more than $27,000 invested in the display. Brooks Clark operates the conveyor truck at Kluesner Concreters and used his large-machinery skills to build the show. They also share hardware with Rick Hoffman of Hoffman Family Fireworks, who Clark said has been a big help. At least half of the equipment will need to be shipped back to Light-O-Rama of New York for repairs by the end of the season due to rain damage.

When asked if he would accept donations to help replace the failing equipment, Clark said no.

"I don't expect or want anything in return, and neither does Brooks," Clark said.

Friday night a special song stood out from the holiday theme. To the tune of Eli Young Band's "Crazy Girl," J.T. Payne of Egypt Mills asked his girlfriend Whitney McNeely of Fruitland to be his bride.

Payne arranged to have both their families there to see the lights spell out his proposal and witness McNeely's reaction. She said yes.

"People were honking and going crazy," Payne said.

At midnight Dec. 31, the lights will go out until next year. Visitors to the home at 624 County Road 208 west of Kelso can tune their radios to 87.9 FM to hear the holiday program.

salderman@semissourian.com

388-3648

Pertinent address:

624 County Road 208, Scott City, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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