epilepsy toronto holiday nights of lights

Toronto charity loses money after holiday drive-thru event cancelled due to lockdown

Holiday Nights of Lights, a drive-thru outdoor illuminated light trail located in Vaughan and consisting of over one million LED lights, closed as of Dec. 26 along with the rest of the drive-thru experiences in Ontario due to the province's new lockdown restrictions.

The closure not only means a missed holiday experience for many families, but also thousands of dollars in donations lost for Epilepsy Toronto since a portion of all the ticket proceeds were set to go toward the charity, which supports 40,000 people in Toronto living with epilepsy.

"Our objective was to raise upwards of $100,000 for the charity with this event toward counselling services for children and youth," Geoff Bobb, executive director of Epilepsy Toronto, told blogTO.

"Every lost dollar impacts our ability to support those with seizures in their times of greatest need, both now and in the years ahead."

This would have replaced lost revenues from their Toronto International Buskerfest which was cancelled in the summer, as were three of their other fundraising events this year due to COVID-19.

"As is the case with many small charities, our agency relies heavily on special events to survive," says Bobb. "Many charities have failed during this pandemic. Only those that have managed to pivot creatively have managed to survive."

Bobb says Holiday Nights of Lights and other drive-thru events are an example of that creativity.

"Drive-thru events, such as Night of Lights, are one of the few activities that can and should continue. They're specifically designed to accommodate a pandemic environment as they're 100 per cent contactless and safe."

Nights of Lights have provided a lockdown update on their website to say that they're working with the government in hopes of reversing their decision to shut down drive-thru events.

The statement reads, "Please know that we've been working relentlessly behind the scenes to overturn this decision and be permitted to continue to operate, similar to drive-thru fast-food chains or retailers who offer curbside pick-up."

Tickets sold for dates from Dec. 26 to Jan. 7 are not currently being refunded but instead will remain valid with options sent to customers with regards to the ticket.

Bobb anticipates the challenges around funding will continue into 2021 for Epilepsy Toronto and other small charities in the city.

"Special events will struggle to secure traditional corporate support, and individual donations continue to be at an all-time low due to unprecedented unemployment and small business decline," he says.

"Emergency support programs are ending, donations will be harder to come by, but the needs will continue to escalate." 

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