TOPEKA (KSNT) – A 25-year-old tradition with over a million lights and stretching two miles long at the Lake Shawnee Campground was missing a very special person this year. Organizer Ron Gwaltney suddenly passed away back in October. Not only did he love putting on the display for families, but he was a crucial part in putting it all together.
“Anything that you see out here where the lights make it look like it’s moving or something new, it’s because Ron was the one behind it,” Winter Wonderland Organizer, Sherry Lundry said. “He was just a huge supporter of TARC and loved it. Loved it so much that he was out here I can’t even tell you how many nights during the run that he would be out here checking to make sure everything was working correctly.”
While he had a big part year after year putting the display together, Ron’s son Michael says he did it for the community.
“He’d be very humble and probably wouldn’t take any credit for it. He just hopes that all the lights are working for all the kids and families driving through the displays and doing the walk throughs beforehand and make sure everything’s up and running, but again he lets everybody else take the credit for us,” said Michael Gwaltney.
While Ron might not be here in person, his son says his legacy will live on forever with a special display in his honor.
“It’s very very awesome to see that up there and what they did for us and we just appreciate everyone’s support over this last month or two. And we’re just very very blessed with the community of Topeka, Kansas and everywhere with all the cards and recognition that my dad was a part of,” Michael Gwaltney said.
Along with honoring Ron, $30,000 dollars was raised for TARC. Their biggest fundraiser of the year.
“All the proceeds that come from this go to support the folks we support which are folks with intellectual, developmental and related disabilities,” Lundry said. “So when we set this up we know that it’s going to be a huge fundraiser to help support them.”