Lights return to Marines’ Toys for Tots

Ray Daigle has a simple yet ambitious goal for Friday night.

The 65-year-old Christmas light guru hopes to collect 4,000 toys that can be delivered as presents to needy children during the holiday season.

The Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program will host its Operation Toy Drop Caravan beginning at 5 p.m. Friday. A caravan of vehicles will leave Assumption High School at 5:30 p.m. headed toward the “Paincourtville Lights” at Daigle’s residence at 6151 La. 1 in Paincourtville.

Everyone coming to the lights on Friday is encouraged to donate a new unwrapped toy or make a monetary donation for Toys for Tots.

Daigle, who started his holiday lights display 12 years ago, has seen the display grow from 35,000 lights to more than 2 million. This year’s display has 1.3 million LED lights that are run by five computers, he said.

There are two major additions to this year’s display — search lights that will broadcast up to 15 miles on top of the house, and a synchronization of the lights with 21 songs, both Christmas and patriotic.

“All of the lights will ‘dance’ to the music,” Daigle said.

Daigle started checking all of the lights in September and spent more than a month assembling his three-acre display, which is available to the public free of charge from 6 to 10 p.m. every night from Thanksgiving until Jan. 3.

The display features trains, ferris wheels, carousels, swings, nativity scenes and many other holiday motifs. Santa Claus will greet visitors with candy canes from 7 to 8 p.m. every Friday night until Christmas Eve.

What initially began as a coping mechanism for Daigle following 9/11 has now become a community treasure and beacon of pride in Assumption Parish, he said.

“What keeps me going is the kids for Toys for Tots,” Daigle said. “The Marine Corps says never leave a man behind. The Toys for Tots program says never leave a child behind.”