Festive holiday house in Georgetown inspires donations to Make-A-Wish

Harlien light display, (KEYE TV)

A home in Georgetown transforms in the month of December. The Berry Creek neighborhood looks like the North Pole. Santa stops by for a visit, too, but he's spreading more than holiday cheer.

The most festive house on Liscio Loop is helping children facing serious illnesses. It took Russell Harlien 300 hours to hang 70,000 lights synchronized to 64 animations at his home. This is the 21st year the Harlien family has gone Griswold but it's the red donation box out front that is doing even more to brighten the lives of others.

Harlien likes to stay behind-the-scenes but he has a saying, "The only way to get rid of darkness is to add more light."

The neighbors are inspired. "Yes! Putting my lights to music and LED lights because I don't have very many of those," said neighbor Will Morgan.

The twinkling eyes of little kids are what keeps the tradition alive. "The holidays are difficult when you have a sick child," said Santa Phil.

Santa Phil of Georgetown donates his time to the Harlien house because his own son, who beat leukemia, was granted a wish from Make-A-Wish in 2007. "It really made a huge difference in how he got through this treatment," said Santa Phil.

Sean Gingras is now 22, cancer-free and is also giving back. "It's very humbling for me to be able to help out all those kids in need," said Gingras.

Last year, more than $20,000 was raised. It helped grant the wishes of four Central Texas Make-A-Wish kids.

All of the money donated goes to MAW and it stays local. "A lot of families say that it brings normalcy. They have something to look forward to. It affects the whole family and we send the entire family on their wish," said Kathryn Draper of Make-A-Wish.

The Tope family of Liberty Hill went to Disney World this past Thanksgiving thanks to the money raised from last year's Harlien Christmas lights display.

"We have some memories we can cherish the rest of our life," said Joel Tope.

Madeleine Tope, 12, has a rare heart condition. She wants to be a missionary and relies on faith to stay positive. "I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord," said Madeleine as she told us her favorite Bible verse.

Children like Madeleine and those that come from across Central Texas to see the lights, are part of the reason the Harlien light display is doing more than just lighting the night. "Any child that I see the emotion in, I try to let them know that they are not alone," said Santa Phil.

The lights are on all December long but Santa will return on Friday, December 18th at 6 p.m. You can also donate to Make-A-Wish at The home is located at 400 Liscio Cove in Georgetown.

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