By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — LAKE PLACID — A community gift that came amid the first lights of the holiday season will last, for many children, a lifetime.
In its 26th consecutive annual gala celebration, Joy to the Children made merry at the Mirror Lake Inn amid delicious food and a brilliant display of holiday lights with evergreen trim.
The event raised about $95,000 this year, “which brings the grand total to nearly $1.9 million for the past 26 years,” said Mirror Lake spokesman Sandy Caligiore.
Every dime is given to Lake Placid Center for the Arts to use in children’s programming.
At LPCA, publicist Kim Andresen said funding raised at this signature holiday event is about one-eighth of the Center for the Arts budget.
“It supports all of our children’s free programs — fall children’s theater production; summer camps; Missoula Children’s Theater; The School’s Free program; we do an elementary and middle and high school art gallery show; and the free After School Workshops — 30 to 40 each season — are all underwritten by Joy to the Children.
“It’s amazing,” Andresen said. “There is no way we could offer all the wonderful programs we do without Joy to the Children.”
It is the kind of gift that inspires, she said.
Joy to the Children was dreamed up more than a quarter of a century ago by Lisa Wiebrecht, who owns Mirror Lake Inn with her husband, Edwin, and Nadine Duhaime, former executive director at LPCA.
“They came up with the idea, and it started out small,” Caligiore said.
Now it is a project that builds to a festive evening that draws many patrons.
“We have hundreds of donations, hundreds of volunteers. It is an amazing project. It is definitely the party of the season,” Andresen said of the gala atmosphere.
About 30,000 children from Essex, Clinton, Franklin and Hamilton counties will attend some 300 programs free of charge over the next 12 months.
It provides a stop-gap for spending cuts in schools, often allowing entire classrooms to take in a midday theater project in Lake Placid at no charge for either parents or the school.
“The Weibrechts are overjoyed,” Caligiore said of the event’s success this year.
Often called simply “Joy,” the celebration has become both a tradition in Lake Placid and a blessing.
“This will continue. It is a real part of the hotel’s mission and the Weibrechts’ personal mission,” Caligiore added.
“Certainly, we can never overestimate the value of arts to community, to the kids.”
The support also lends a fine-art flair to the Olympic village known around the world for training world class athletes and hosting international sporting competition.
“But, we are also an arts community, a music community, and this ongoing holiday celebration in Joy really emphasizes that,” Caligiore said.
“We do all children a great service if we can introduce them to the arts. This provides at least an outlet to explore and pursue theater, music and art.
“If we can introduce a good number of kids to the arts via this mechanism, then we’ve achieved a lot. The Weibrechts feel strongly about that.”
Email Kim Smith: email@example.com