BANGOR, Maine — Just months after a young family in the city lost one of two twin babies, the couple put out Christmas lights and set them to music to remind themselves and others that “Christmas is for children.”
Deanna and Rick Hathaway have decorated their house at 21 Hillview Drive, located within Judson Heights off Lasalle Drive, with lights that turn on, fade in and out and shimmer in tune with Christmas music they broadcast at 88.1 FM.
The musical show is free for holiday onlookers, but a red stocking hangs by the road to collect donations for Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“It’s a way to give back,” Rick Hathaway said Saturday, standing with his wife in their kitchen.
The couple spent nearly two months in the NICU, after the early birth of their sons, Alex and Warren.
“They were both born early at 29 weeks and Alex passed on from complications from being premature,” Rick Hathaway said. “We spent 51 days going in and out of that hospital.”
Warren, who is now an active 2 1/2-year-old, and his younger sister, Ainsley, who is 7 months old, slept through the interview.
The Hathaways said it was incredibly hard to leave the hospital at night and want to help with plans to expand the NICU.
“It’s cramped, and parents can’t spend the night,” Deanna Hathaway said. “With the expansion, they’ll have individual rooms, privacy and parents will be able to stay the night.”
“It’s our way of saying, ‘Thank you,’” her husband said.
The couple raised about $800 last year and already have collected approximately $600. The nightly musical lights show started Dec. 1 and will light up between 5 and 9 p.m. until at least Christmas.
“It takes about three days to set up,” Rick Hathaway said. “One day, we had a cherry picker and eight guys.”
Each of the approximately 25,000 lights are controlled by a program set up by him.
“We have four controllers and each controller has 16 channels,” Rick Hathaway said.
Each song takes about an hour to program into the controllers, and there are hundreds of feet of extension cords connecting them. About 95 percent of the lights are LEDs to save on electricity, which increases by $15 to $20 monthly to run them, his wife said.
“It’s less than [air conditioning] costs in the summer,” Deanna Hathaway said.
The couple, who both had large holiday displays at their homes as children, thanked their neighbors for putting up with the lights, the music and the traffic.
“It’s to thank all the people out there who have to go through what we went through at the NICU and the staff, and to celebrate Christmas, of course,” Rick Hathaway said. “Christmas is for the children.”