116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — A hospice home is lighting up this holiday season with the first and only drive-thru holiday light display in Johnson County.
Holiday Lights at the Lake, running from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, will showcase 34 professionally installed light displays in a milelong course at West Overlook Campground at Coralville Lake. There, viewers can revel in the animated decorations for a cause that benefits The Bird House Hospice Home of Johnson County.
The milelong route includes captivating lit archways, animated displays, whimsical Santa’s ranch characters, storybook scenes, fantasy flower arrangements, moose and reindeer involved in Olympic sporting activities and more. A favorite display with early attendees at a soft opening was the tunnel of lights with a long display that shimmers in different colors and patterns.
Where: West Overlook Campground at Coralville Lake on West Overlook Road. NE in Iowa City.
When: Nightly from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve
Hours: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 5 to 9 p.m. Friday to Sunday.
Cost: $10 for cars and vans, $20 for large vans and limousines, $30-$40 for larger buses.
Details: Wednesday evenings are open to pedestrians only; admission is $5 per person.
The one-mile course takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to drive through, depending on traffic levels.
All proceeds benefit The Bird House Hospice Home of Johnson County. For more details, visit hospicehomejc.org.
The Bird House hopes to make this event its legacy annual fundraiser. The Bird House has cared for more than 290 hospice guests at the Iowa City house since it opened in 2016. The private home is one of 34 in the Omega Home Network.
After covering the cost of displays through about 60 generous community sponsors, proceeds from admission fees will go directly toward the hospice home’s mission to reduce the costs of end-of-life care for residents, said Jessica Wittman, co-chair and co-creator of the inaugural event. With enough funds, The Bird House could meet its goal of providing free care to residents in its five rooms.
“We didn’t want to be a place where only a certain segment could receive care,” said Wittman, a former Bird House board member. “We wanted it to be obtainable for everybody.”
But as a private, not-for-profit boardinghouse, The Bird House does not accept insurance coverage. To make care affordable for all five rooms, the home must fundraise $500 per day — $182,500 per year.
“The mission is to provide compassionate, quality end-of-life care for them and their loved ones,” Wittman said. “That round-the-clock care makes it so we can do pain management and make sure they’re taken care of physically and spiritually.”
In a secluded, wooded setting, The Bird House provides meals free for all patients and their families.
“The Bird House is relatively new. We’re just getting to the point where we’re locking these fundraising events down,” Wittman said. “This seemed to be a good fit to provide something fun for the community but also to bring funding into The Bird House.”
Wittman drew inspiration for the idea, a first in Johnson County, from a similar drive-thru light show that’s been in Dubuque for many years. The next closest drive-thru light shows to Iowa City are in Walker, Mount Pleasant and Dubuque.
“That was something near and dear to my heart and my family,” she said. “It became a tradition for many community members.”
The idea has been in the works for three years with The Bird House. Planning for the effort started in February.
With help from the Army Corps of Engineers at West Overlook Campground as well as volunteers who worked for five days to build the displays sent in a semi-trailer, Johnson County now has a drive-thru light display of its own.
Looking for even more displays? Find every twinkling holiday light near you at The Gazette’s Holiday Light Finder. There, you can find every holiday event, save light displays to look at later and submit addresses for displays not yet listed.
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