When I was a kid, my mom would let my sister and I wear our footed pajamas in the car on Christmas Eve while we drove around our hometown of Bangor, Maine sipping hot chocolate and listening to holiday songs on the radio. We would drive through all the big fancy neighborhoods and stare at the incredible light shows, our eyes wide in amazement. I can still recall to this day the sense of magic that I felt while watching the flashing colored lights illuminating front porches or the red and white bulbs creating the shape of a reindeer in one front yard.
What I couldn’t have understood at such a young age was that sometimes, these holiday displays are about a whole lot more than pretty lights to dazzle the imaginations of local kids. Sometimes, those brilliant strings of lights have stories to tell.
For the past six years, a local Bangor family has created one such mesmerizing light show — in honor of their son, Alexander, who passed away soon after birth.
“On June 6, 2011, my wife gave birth to twin boys at 29 weeks,” Rick Hathaway tells Babble. “They were delivered early because of Acute Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, which caused blood flow to one of our sons to almost stop. Unfortunately, our son, Alexander Leroy Hathaway, passed away from complications after 4 days. Our other son, Warren Alexander Glenn Hathaway, spent 51 days in the NICU and is doing well today. Thanks to the amazing men and women of EMMC NICU we were able to bring our son home.”
In honor of Alexander, the family now decks out their home with festive lights every December and hands out free hot chocolate to passersby. Talk about giving back in a magical and profoundly lovely way.
According to Rick, the light show truly is a community experience, from start to finish.
“For six years we have [had] family, friends, neighbors and coworkers come out and brave the cold to put up all the lights,” Rick shares. “The Bangor community and our neighbors have been great through the entire setup and more importantly, during December where it is not uncommon for cars to be lined up the road.”
The annual light show is also a way for the Hathaways to pay it forward — each night, they collect donations for Eastern Maine Medical Center’s NICU, where they send 100% of the funds raised during their month-long light show event.
“Last year we raised over $2,000 and from the beginning we have been able to raise over $14,000,” Rick tells Babble. “This money goes straight to the NICU so they can purchase items that they need to provide amazing care. We are grateful to all the donations we have collected from friends, neighbors and total strangers. This is a way for us to give back to the men and women who fight for the little ones that are not yet able to fight for themselves.”
The Hathaways’ story hits home for me personally in a pretty big way — not just because their amazing light show happens to be in my hometown, but also because my first child spent a month in a NICU, too. When I think of how much their Christmas event means every year — and just what the proceeds benefit — I can’t help but well up with tears.
If you happen to be in the Bangor, Maine area, you can catch one of the Hathaways’ light shows from now through December 16 from 5-9 PM, and from December 17-26 from 4:30-9:30 PM. There is free hot chocolate to sip on while you watch more than 37,000 lights dance, and Santa will even make a special appearance on December 16 from 6-8 PM.