For one night every November, the streets of Cheshire glitter with luminary bags, signifying residents’ dedication to one another and their commitment to raise money to help those in need.
Cheshire’s Lights of Hope has become one of the more influential charities in town since its humble beginnings in 2005. Now in its 15th year of operation, Lights of Hope provides an opportunity for the community to embody the phrase “neighbors helping neighbors” — the organization’s official slogan.
“Last year was the first year we sold out of luminary bags entirely,” said Don Walsh, co-founder and president of Lights of Hope. “We sold the last one at Hines at around 5 p.m. (on the day of the event) last year.”
This year’s Lights of Hope event will be held on Saturday, Nov. 9, and luminary bags are being sold at a variety of local businesses in order to support the charity and get the word out.
“We are selling them (luminaries) at Hines Hardware Store, Cheshire Nursery, Main St. Caffe and out in front of Stop and Shop,” Walsh explained. “We are even doing drive through luminary sales on the Cheshire Green on the day of, which we did for the first time last year.”
This year, Cheshire’s Lights of Hope has ordered almost 50 thousand luminary bags, Walsh explained, which they hope to once again sell out.
“This year we are projecting to raise just shy of $1 million,” Walsh mentioned. “But next year we will definitely be well over that million dollar mark.”
According to the Cheshire Lights of Hope website, the charity has sold over $700,000 luminary bags since 2005, and has raised roughly $915,000 all together. All the funds raised through Cheshire’s Lights of Hope are directed to local charities, businesses, and organizations in the area.
“We donate the money to the Cheshire Food Pantry, Cheshire High School Football team, the Petit Family Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis foundations, just to name a few,” Walsh said.
Cheshire High School students have also become major contributors to the event, especially since a Lights of Hope club was started at the school three years ago.
“The first year the club started there were only about five students in attendance,” reported Walsh, “This year at the first meeting we had about 110 students express interest in the club. I am really happy that the kids are getting involved in this because ultimately all these charities are raising money for their futures.”
More recently, Cheshire’s Lights of Hope has submitted a proposal to the Town of Cheshire to rename a portion of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail the “Trail of Hope,” in an effort to honor the charity’s impact on the town.
“The proposal is out of committee and now will go to the Town Council where we expect it to pass,” said Walsh. “If it passes there then hopefully we will have a naming event in early spring”
This year Lights of Hope is also hosting a “Show Us Your Glow” sweepstakes, where residents can submit photos to Lights of Hope, via snail mail or email, of their luminary yard displays for a special prize — a $50 gift card to Viron Rondo Osteria on Highland Ave.