AN Alexander Heights couple are paying tribute to Santa Ken and raising funds for Melanoma WA with their Christmas lights this festive season.
Sharen and Robert Gardner have an interactive display on show on their home at 8 La Salle Road and this year included a tribute to the popular Santa from Lakeside Joondalup shopping centre, who died last year.
Mrs Gardner said their daughters were friends with Ken Ekins, although they only realised the Santa connection when he made a kindergarten appearance.
“My grandchildren had their photo taken with him every year,” she said.
This year the family decided to put up a wall of photos to remember Santa Ken and to fundraise for the first time.
“We are collecting money for Melanoma WA because he died of melanoma,” Mrs Gardner said.
“Since then my husband has been diagnosed with melanoma and had part of his thumb removed.”
Their daughter Michelle Merema said families were encouraged to explore and play in the interactive display.
“Activities include musical toys, dress ups, a ‘train’ and train station for make-believe play, a fairy garden, teddies galore, a bridge, a family-sized sleigh, a Frozen chair, special glasses that make the lights look magic, and a tree to decorate,” she said.
“My mum also does face painting some nights, hands out lollipops and holds an annual carols by candlelight evening at the house.”
Mrs Gardner said they encouraged people to dress up in hats and costumes they had on site, so there were “toddlers running around in reindeer suits”.
The grandmother said they would hold a carols by candlelight event on December 20 from 7.30pm and would switch lights on daily from 7pm to about 10.30pm until the new year.
She they had been putting up lights for about 15 years and stepped up the level of display in the past six years.
“We used to always put lights on the roof; now we’ve got lights that go all the way to the verge,” she said.
“In the past six years it has quadrupled in size.
“The whole display is homemade; it’s all recycled.”
Mrs Gardner said they had sourced about 40 big and 50 small secondhand trees and used recycled wood to make a train and other parts of the display.
She said they tried to repurpose items rather than buy new.
“We spend the whole year gathering and collecting,” she said.
“We are not one of those families that go and spend thousands of dollars at Christmas shops.”
Mrs Gardner said friends helped set up the display this year and she loved seeing the happiness of children visiting it.