Christmas lights benefit Newport family in time of loss

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ELLIOTTSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — For the sixth year, Kevin Kolak is creating Christmas memories for anyone who passed by his home on Route 274 near Elliottsburg.

“I’ve got a lot of people telling me that this is now their Christmas tradition, to stop and listen to the lights,” he says.

Six years ago, at the request of his wife, Kolak began assembling the elaborate display that has now grown to more than 150,000 lights in his front yard. The lights cover Kolak’s entire house, and fill out the yard in the form of deer, trees, rolling arches and towers topped with snowflakes. The constantly changing lights are programmed to be perfectly synchronized to a half-hour of music played over a local FM radio signal, a feat that takes Kolak about six weeks to achieve annually.

For the fifth year, Kolak is collecting donations to support a local cause. This year, proceeds from the lights display will benefit the the family of Alan Bankert of Newport, who died in a tractor trailer accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last August.

“Alan was 32-year-old, and he was driving truck for UPS, and he crashed his truck and his truck caught fire,” said Amy Bankert, Alan’s widow and mother of their four young children ages 3 months through 7-years-old. “Alan left that night, and we all said I love you. That was the last thing we said.”

Since August, Amy says its been a struggle to keep up with bills and raise her children in their small, two bedroom in Newport. Before Alan’s death, the family was looking for a larger place to live. Amy has “been living on almost strictly donations,” while only recently became approved to receive Social Security benefits. While things have been difficult, especially through the holiday season, she has remained positive and appreciates the help from from her community, church and new friends like the Kolaks.

“I know that I’ve been very blessed in the past couple of months,” she adds. “And I know that God is watching over me, and I know that one day I am going to see Alan again in Heaven.”

Amy says her children miss the little things, like how their ‘Daddy’ would always make them laugh, and take them fishing and to the grocery store. She remembers a man who loved his family above anything else, and served his country in the Pennsylvania National Guard.

“He was about to re-enlist,” she says. “He loved everything Army. He grew up in a military family.”

As a tribute to Alan’s military service, the Kolak’s display begins with a red, white and blue tribute synchronized to the song ‘Il Senzio.’

“Its very somber, very touching,” says Kevin. “His service to our country means a lot to us, and this helps tell his story.”

In previous years, the lights display has raised more than $6,000 for other local families in need. The display happens annually on evenings beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving through the Saturday after Christmas. Visitors are encouraged to pull off to the side of the road and put their four-way blinking lights on as they view the display from Route 274. A donation box is located at the end of the Kolak’s driveway at their home at 1976 Shermans Valley Road, Elliottsburg, PA 17024.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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