Most passers-by moseying along Cedar Avenue slow down in front of the same house, entranced by the nearly 300,000 bulbs that awaken holiday spirit in a way that only few things can. Another source of that cheer is generosity.
Continuing his tradition, Rockville Centre resident Rich McQuillan is mixing spectacle with giving to those in need, as he once again holds a toy drive outside his home to benefit children at Sunrise Day Camp, which provides programs for kids with cancer and their siblings.
Locals are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to the bin at the end of the driveway at 140 Cedar Ave. up until Christmas, and can gaze at the lights on display as they do. McQuillan collected more than 600 gifts last year, he said, which he hands out to children after the holidays.
“We just try to make it fun; there’s enough hatred in the world,” he said. “The kids and the families are constantly thanking us. It’s good for the community and brings joy to them.”
McQuillan added that he plans to ship gifts to Houston this year as a way to brighten up those affected by Hurricane Harvey. “Everybody seems to forget,” he said, “but they’re devastated down there.”
A nativity scene occupies the right side of the front lawn as dripping icicle lights adorn the home. Toy soldiers, stars, wreaths, and reindeer — grounded and flying — round out the display. McQuillan and his family began putting up the lights on Oct. 15, he said, and after hours of decorating the home’s exterior and front lawn each night, the McQuillans officially lit them on Thanksgiving.
He explained that he has put up Christmas lights as long as he can remember, and would always buy more each year. Though his children, who he said were always excited about the display, have grown, he continues to find inspiration to keep the tradition alive.
“There’s a kid in town who lost his father, and his mother said the only time he smiles is when he comes past our house,” he said. “Those are the stories that drive me to do it every year.”