This year's Beacon of H.O.P.E. Holiday House took place Dec. 3, 4 and 5.
"Even though we had heavy rains on Family Night (Thursday, Dec. 3), we had more than 400 people and 200 children," BOH President Elsie Stearns said. "We had everything set up under tents so that everyone was under shelter and the rains didn't dampen the holiday spirit in the least."
"PetSmart donated stuffed dogs and cats for the kids," BOH Director Betsy Haesemeyer said. "That's why we know we had 200 kids here because we gave away 200 stuffed animals. We also fed them mac & cheese and lasagna, we had face-painting and the kids just had a fabulous time. In all we had about 400 people."
The gazebo at Tarpon Lodge was festively decorated for the occasion — and the Christmas holiday.
Some scheduling changes were necessary - Santa arrived by fire truck instead of by boat. The fire truck pulled into the Tarpon Lodge parking lot with lights blazing and sirens and horns blaring.
"I think it was more exciting than the arrival last year by boat," Lloyd Hamm said. "This is our third Holiday House."
Nan Patterson, owner of Island Time Fashions and Gifts, was well prepared for her second year of participating at the BOH Holiday House.
"At the Fashion Show, we had several ladies showing off some of the lines we carry at Island Time Fashion and Gifts," Patterson said. "We came up with some new and exciting ideas for this year's Holiday House. My store is on Stringfellow Road."
Thursday evening featured D.L. Havlin, the author of "Blue Water Red Blood," "Cross on Cotton Creek," "September on Echo Creek" and the recently released "Bully Route Home."
Friday's guest authors were Gretchen Coyle and Deborah Whitcraft, who wrote "Inferno at Sea - The Morro Castle."
Saturday's guest author was John Mills, author of "The Hooker, the Dancer and the Nun."
This year the Holiday House tabletop trees were decorated by Barnhill Fisheries, author John Mills, TowBoatUS, SP Designs, Island Girl Fitness, Raymond James, Bobby Holloway Jr. Memorial, PI Pizza, Olde Fish House, JP Sports, Matlacha Wellness, Pam & Christine Hair/Nail Designs, Royal Tee Golf Course and Chico's White House/Black Market. The Chico's tree included jewelry and gift certificates for its stores.
"When everything was totaled, we did close to $16,000," Stearns said. "None of which goes to the matching funds we are working on. It all goes into the general operating account."
The three-night event featured several local vendors: CW Fudge's Chocolate Candyland, Mullethead Outpost featuring Mel Meo and Brian Darby, Sanibel Soul Jewelry, Friends of the Beacon Specialty Shop, Island Time Fashions, wood carver Dan Fischer and Reel Chase.