Cheshire’s Lights of Hope was born out of a simple desire — to bring neighbors together.
What started as a street-wide event turned into a town-wide affair after a home invasion in 2007 left a mother and her two daughters murdered and the community reeling. Healing was necessary. Togetherness was essential. And anyone who was in Cheshire at that time knows that Lights of Hope played a pivotal role in helping residents move past that terrible day.
Since then, LOH has taken its place as one of the events most anticipated throughout town. Arriving right in the middle of the holiday season, it reminds everyone of the need to give while also providing a wonderful night of luminary beauty to feast one’s eyes upon. There’s something particularly magical about the way everything from the Cheshire Academy campus to much of Route 10 looks lit up when the sun goes down.
If this is indeed the last year for Cheshire’s Lights of Hope, as founders Don and Jenifer Walsh have announced within the last few days, then it will certainly be missed. There will be a hole left in the calendar each year that is currently occupied by the event. But instead of just lamenting the end, we hope the Walshes’ dream to make this year the biggest year ever is realized.
If the lights are being lowered, we hope the event that precedes this end moment is the best in Lights of Hope’s 17-year history.
There’s a lot that can happen between now and November, and while Walsh did not appear hopeful that someone would step forward to commit to keeping the event going even after he and Jenifer step aside, perhaps new volunteers will emerge with a plan to continue the legacy. Or perhaps, as Walsh intimated in his recent interview with The Herald, something else will be formed to step in for Lights of Hope, raising money for the same causes and organizations that have been helped by LOH over the years.
Regardless, the Walshes deserve a loud and heartfelt “thank you” from the community. It is no small feat to keep such an event going year after year, and Don and Jenifer Walsh have committed their time and effort to the making Lights of Hope what it is today. There have been, over the years, thousands of volunteers who have aided the cause, but Don and Jenifer have been the engine keeping the whole thing moving forward.
It’s understandable that, after so many years, the two have decided to step away. As Walsh explained to The Herald, LOH had become a 12-months-a-year endeavor, and for a couple with other major commitments in their lives, this decision, no matter how tough, had to be made.
They leave the community better than they found it. Lights of Hope has helped to fill the shelves at the Cheshire Food Pantry, provide needed resources for the Town’s Youth and Family Services, offer scholarships to deserving students, and more. But perhaps nothing will be as meaningful as what that first town-wide event meant to Cheshire in the aftermath of the Petit family murders.
For a community on edge, looking for a way to move beyond the unthinkable, the event provided literal and figurative light. It was a rallying point for the community, where the ugliness of such senseless violence could be put to one side and instead residents focus on all the goodness and generosity that existed.
It’s been 15 years since that terrible night in the summer of 2007, and there are likely many in the community now who were not residents during that time. But for those who were there for the first event after the murders, the importance of it will never be forgotten.
A community is only as good as the people who comprise it. The Walshes, and everyone who has committed to Lights of Hope over the years, are a big reason why Cheshire remains such a valued town in which to live.