By Megan Miller, Editor
GRAYSON VALLEY – One Grayson Valley family has been putting up Christmas lights displays since the early 2000s, but this year the lights show supports a good cause.
This holiday season the Burns family is collecting stuffed animal donations to donate to Cops We Care, an organization affiliated with the Birmingham Police Department that distributes new and gently used stuffed animals to children that may have been involved in or witnessed a compromising situation.
“About a year ago I heard about Cops We Care,” Gina Burns said. “They take in stuffed animals that have been donated to give to police men and women when they come onto a scene where a child has unfortunately been in an event they didn’t need to be a part of.”
Burns said she called to make sure the organization was still accepting donations, and they told her they were in desperate need. She’s set a goal of collecting 30 stuffed animals to donate this year, but would be happy to gather even more.
“Someone actually didn’t charge me for one of the voice overs we’re using, saying he anted us to use that money to get stuffed animals in his name,” Burns said.
Burns said she began watching lights shows on the Internet and was inspired to start a display of her own.
“I was on the computer watching one night, and I turned around and looked at my husband and he said ‘not gonna happen,’” Burns joked. “The next year we had one controller and I put up probably 60-70 percent of the lights, but the year after that he was on the bandwagon with me.”
Burns said the family has added another light controller every year to the point that they are now maxed out on power. She also said each year they add or take away elements they build from the ground up as a family. At one point the Burns’ home was known as the Alabama/Auburn house, and last year they built a Cinderella carriage.
“You sit there and think, I have these controllers, what can I do? Because you can’t do anything beyond what the controller can do,” Burns said. “I’m the idea person, my husband is the reality person.”
Together, Gina and Gary come up with ideas and use Gary’s welding skills to put pieces together, or even use zip ties. All elements are hand built and at the end of the season are broken down and stored at their home.
“From the very beginning we always said we’d never buy anything pre-built, it would either be from our minds or from our hands,” Burns said. “The biggest thing we always said was it was from us, from our hands, nothing store bought.”
Burns said elements are added and taken away each year, but certain elements will always remain in place, like the spiral tree and the small trees that line the street.
Anyone that wants to stop by the Burns’ home at 2170 Cheshire Drive to make a donation and see the lights can visit Sunday-Thursday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. You can hear the music that goes with the lights display on 106.1 FM. The Burns family asks all visitors be courteous to those who live on the street, making sure no driveways are blocked.