WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — Each year, Stony Brook Shines raises money for local charities through their neighborhood-wide holiday lights show. Despite the pandemic, the biggest change this year was the incredible amount of money raised for military families.
"This is our 13th year and while I know it’s been popular, it has not been like this," said Jennifer Chomen, organizer of the event.
Chomen says this year's light show brought the biggest crowds they've ever seen.
"Everywhere you looked, everywhere you turned people were talking about Stony Brook Shines," said Chomen.
Each year they choose a charity that supports children to raise money for and this year is all supporting veterans and their children.
"They’re kind of the forgotten people because they’re left here when parents are away,” said Chomen.
So the neighbhorhood lit up red, white and blue and collected donations for WNY Heroes, Inc.
"It was interesting to see that it was more than Christmas lights and Christmas cheer, that they wanted to make it more about veterans and military," said Chris Kreiger, Founder of WNY Heroes, Inc.
WNY Heroes is a non-profit that supports military families financially and offers grants and programming for their families. Without most of their fundraisers this year, they lost a lot of their income.
"We were ecstatic because if it wasn’t for the Stony Brook Community, if it wasn’t for the WNY community, we wouldn’t be able to do anything we do here for our veterans," said Kreiger.
In past years, Stony Brook Shines raised thousands, most recently, they donated more than $38,000 to Devin's Message. The goal was to beat last year's amount raised.
And did they ever. They collected a total of $73,420.30.
😱STONY BROOK SHINES TOTAL😱:— Taylor Epps WKBW (@taylor_epps_) January 6, 2021
WOW!!! This was a record-breaking year for this holiday fundraiser. Organizers think the pandemic brought more people and opened more hearts. Every cent will support veterans and their families through @WNYHeroes. @WKBW pic.twitter.com/iUUXthJ0G2
“The amount of money that has generated is truly…it’s amazing, just to see how many people came out to make sure there were a lot of funds raised," said Kreiger.
Chomen thinks COVID-19 definitely had an impact and opened people’s hearts this year. This money will help pay for support animals for veterans, pay their rents and mortgages and support their children, which is what Stony Brook Shines is all about.
"It really solidified the fact that, we’re doing good for WNY,” said Chomen.