For the past 11 years, Tobey and Scott Huntley have turned their Upper Arlington house into an elaborate light show around the holidays
This year, it's also a fundraiser for the family of Chris Collaros, principal at Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School in Upper Arlington, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in September.
The Huntleys usually collect donations for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee, but they wanted to find a way to support Collaros. They decided to make a personal donation to St. Jude and direct anything they collect from their Christmas light show this year to Collaros.
"There are so many things we can't do, and we leave those jobs up to doctors and other family members," said Tobey Huntley, who used to work as a teacher's aide at Wickliffe and whose 16-year-old son, Ryan, went there. "But what can we do? This is something we could easily do to be supportive, and other people could help out as well."
Here's how the light show works: You pull into the Huntleys' driveway at 4460 Reed Road in Upper Arlington and turn your car radio to 96.5 FM. You'll hear a broadcast that Scott Huntley has produced featuring a playlist of classic Christmas songs. The Christmas lights are choreographed to the music, flashing and dimming to the rhythm of the songs.
In between some of the songs, you will hear a message that lets you know donations are being collected for Collaros.
On average, the Huntleys say they raise about $300 per year. But with the money going to Collaros, they've already surpassed that this year. There also is a box to drop off cards, letters from students or anything else people want Collaros to receive.
Collaros, 56, said he and his family have been "overcome by the gestures of support and love." He compared it to a "trust fall," the team-building exercise where you fall backward and trust that others will catch you.
"I feel like I've been doing that for three months and I can't fall," Collaros said, adding that his house is filled with artwork from students. Donated meals continue to show up at the door, as well, he said.
"The people who have come together to support our family have made it so we can't be down, so we can't fall," he said.
The Huntleys' show -- which they've dubbed, "The Reed Road Carnival of Lights" -- has picked up a reputation in the community. Upper Arlington resident Denise Vogt has stopped to watch it for the past three years.
The show took on another meaning this year when Vogt found out it was being dedicated to Collaros; her 9-year-old daughter, Donna, is a third-grader at Wickliffe, where Collaros is a beloved presence, Vogt said.
"If you look in the world of most elementary-school children, their elementary school principal is a giant in the world and I can't think of a better person than Mr. Collaros to put into that position," Vogt said.
She said Collaros is the kind of person who, when you show up at his door to bring him and his family a meal, will spend most of the time asking how your daughter is doing instead of focusing on himself.
He also is the kind of person who is always smiling, never mad and makes "Wickliffe like no other school," said 17-year-old Brooke Fidler, a former student who is a junior at Upper Arlington High School.
And he is the kind of person who starts staff meetings by asking people to share kind words about somebody else, who leaves a note on your desk to tell you he loves working with you, and who brings his guitar to school and sings songs -- especially by The Beatles -- to students, said Kathie Zelnik, a music teacher at Wickliffe.
"Everyone becomes better versions of themselves just by knowing Chris," Zelnik said.
The Huntleys' Christmas light show will continue at least through the first week of January.
It's a fitting way to raise money for Collaros because "music reminds us what he's all about," Tobey Huntley said.
But it's hardly the only way people have shown their support for Collaros: There was a fundraiser with live music at Vertical Adventures in Columbus in October, T-shirts and bracelets have been made, and Wickliffe families have signed up to bring meals to the Collaros family. Although Collaros isn't been at school while he receives treatment, Zelnik said she and other teachers take videos of their classes for him to watch.
"The response he's getting back from people is only a fraction of what he's given everybody else," Tobey Huntley said.