Feature

B.C. couple forced to give up Christmas displays donates them to Bright Nights Christmas Train

For nearly 20 years, Perry and Paula Balascak put their heart and soul into decorating their house for Christmas. But illness has forced them to give it up.

Due to illness, the family donated 40 handmade wooden structures to the Christmas Train

From right to left, Perry, Paula and Tyler Balascak. The family has been making new Christmas decorations every year.

For nearly 20 years, Perry and Paula Balascak's house in Maple Ridge was that one house on the block that would go all out with the Christmas decorations.

They would put up thousands of lights and decorate their lawn with hand-crafted wooden structures.

"I draw them on the wood, Perry cuts them out with the jigsaw and then I paint them all," said Paula Balascak.

The extravagant holiday decorations would bring people from all over, some from as far away as North Vancouver.

"We get lots of traffic in our cul-de-sac," said Paula. "Senior citizens come through with the buses, people are expecting the display every year and everybody expected it to be lit and turned on by Dec. 1.

"Perry would be out there always, slugging away in every type of weather, snow, sleet, hail, you name it, he was out there," she said.

For nearly two decades, Perry and Paula Balascak would light up their house with thousands of Christmas lights and deck their lawns with dozens of hand-made wooden structures. (Paula Balascak)

It had become a Christmas tradition, and every year, the family, with the help of their son, Tyler, 17, would add new displays. The family collected food for a local food bank from those who visited their display.

You could say the Balascaks love Christmas.

But this year, the family was forced to give up its Christmas decorating tradition after Perry Balascak lost a toe to amputation and fell into a depression.

But the Balascaks didn't wallow in their misfortune.

Instead, they donated their dozens of decorations to Vancouver's Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park, which raises money for the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund.

"So many more people will get to see it," Perry said. "If I can help raise money in anyway, it means the world to me. So I couldn't see it go to a better place.,"

The family says they put their heart and soul into creating these displays, and every year they would come up with new ones. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)
As devastating as it was for the family to give up their decorations, they say they're happy to see it go to such a good home. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)
These are just a handful of the hand-crafted wooden structures that the family has made over the years. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

It's not the first time the Balascaks have donated to the Bright Nights Christmas Train.

Last year, when thieves made off with thousands of dollars worth of copper wire from the Stanley Park display, the Balascaks stepped up.

Perry, who is in electrical sales, called up his suppliers and collected $30,000 worth of lights for the annual event which raises money for burn survivors and their families.

Donations and a portion of the ticket sales from Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park goes to the Professional Firefighters' Burn Fund — which helps burn survivors and their families. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

But, this year, misfortune befell the Balascaks.

In March, Perry, who has Type 1 diabetes, fell ill. Complications lead to a streptococcus infection in his toe and he spent months in the hospital. Eventually, doctors had to amputate it. He fell into depression.

The family decided it was time to give up their annual lights display and donated 40 of their wooden structures to the Stanley Park display.

"So, many more people will get to see it ... if I can help raise money in any way, it means the world to me. So, I couldn't see it go to a better place," said Perry.

Perry and his family saw the display lit up for the first time in Stanley Park on Wednesday during a VIP event. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

On Wednesday, during a special VIP event, the family saw their displays lit up in the park for the first time.

"I think it looks amazing," said Perry, "I couldn't ask for anything better."

The Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park runs from Nov. 30 until Jan. 6.

The Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park runs from Nov. 30 until Jan. 6. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)