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Effingham Magazine

Lynn & Tara Childress: Spreading the Beauty & Spirit of Christmas

Story by Katrice Williams Photos by Tonya Perry & Tara Childress

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” ~Holy Bible

Lynn and Tara Childress have been residents of the Lost Plantation Community for quite some time, long enough to often participate in one of the most memorable events of the year—Lost Plantation’s Annual Golf Cart Parade. In 2016, the couple was asked to become new coordinators for the event which had already been celebrated for many years. The community looks forward to the enjoyable occasion—a time filled with Christmas cheer and beauty. This year, the event is scheduled for Saturday, December 7th. Festivities commence at 3 p.m. while the actual parade starts at 6:30 p.m., beginning at Lost Plantation’s Dressler Road Cul-de-Sac. As the Christmas season is a time to spread “peace and goodwill toward men,” the Lost Plantation Community strives to be a reflection of that wonderful truth. The annual celebration began as a time for the community to unite in the spirit of Christmas while enjoying fellowship and a host of great activities. However, one of the biggest initiatives of the event have always been to give all proceeds to a fellow family in need within the neighborhood, particularly those enduring the heartache and pain associated with a loved one’s illness. Whether used as a donation towards medical procedures, medications, travel expenses or any other needs, the money raised is just a small token of support and concern. For the parade, participants are encouraged to creatively decorate their golf carts. The decorative carts travel on a specific route throughout the neighborhood. The Rincon Police Department graciously provides a complete escort for the carts. The overall entrance fee is $20/cart for participants, though some give more to support the heart-warming and noble cause; hence, “all donations are welcome.” Lynn and Tara, too, have seen a variety of festive and uniquely decorated carts over the years. “We’ve had some really great ones,” Tara said. In addition to the parade, attendants can enjoy some good food, a live band and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Clause. Kids are able to have fun with face painting activities and even spend time riding on the Christmas Choo-Choo Train. What is more, since 2016, the couple has taken pride in making decorative, lighted Christmas Balls--EllaBalls--to sell before the event each year; each ball costs $20 with proceeds still benefiting the neighborhood cause. Lynn mentions his inspiration for the idea which arose while viewing a simple YouTube video. The video depicted a Greensboro, North Carolina family making festive, lighted Christmas Balls to hang up within their community. The family lived near a cancer treatment center where they donated all proceeds. Lynn was excited when he thought about the idea and immediately mentioned it to Tara who was intrigued. Together, the couple let their creative juices flow. At the time, Lynn, who is the director of grounds at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, found that the business discarded leftover lights from their live, outdoor Christmas tree. In a considerable act of kindness, the resort donated the lights to the couple after learning about the cause, a generous act that has faithfully continued to this day. Tara began using the lights and other items to wrap each of the balls that she splendidly made. After all was said and done, something extraordinary was created. Since the start, the balls have been a real hit, as more and more are ordered every year. Tara begins taking orders in early November. The name EllaBalls, originally called Ella-gant Lights, carries a very special and dear meaning, deriving from precious little Ella Bothwell who passed away in March 2016 at age seven after a nearly year-long battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a type of childhood cancer. The Bothwell Family were Lost Plantation residents. In acts of love and kindness, neighbors and much of the surrounding community rallied around sweet Ella--a beautiful, smart, funny, creative little girl with an unforgettable spirit. The brave little one was an inspiration to many whose lives she so delicately touched. The donation of proceeds from the sale of the EllaBalls was a small way for neighbors to show their support to the family . It is of no surprise that residents’ hearts are still touched when little Ella’s name is mentioned; many wholeheartedly support the EllaBalls, especially during a season where bestowing the gift of giving is priceless. “That little girl made such an impact. I saw how Ella’s life changed so many things in our community. It brought people together in a different way,” Tara said. The growing popularity of EllaBalls has been phenomenal; some people want to place orders well in advance. The balls are one of the loveliest sights during the parade. They can be seen on display throughout the neighborhood and are especially gorgeous after the sun sets. “It has taken on a life of its own. They’ve been a hit every year. The neighborhood keeps getting more and more, and now they’re everywhere which is what I love,” Tara stated. Though making all the balls can keep Tara and Lynn pretty busy during the holiday season, the two would not have it any other way, as the craft has found a very special place in their hearts. “We love it and enjoy it because we know what we’re doing it for. There’s a lot of blessings that come out of it,” Tara commented. The couple insists that the EllaBalls, along with the entire event itself, are really all about being a blessing to a family in need. They encourage all of their neighbors to purchase the delightful balls. “We know that they can make the balls themselves, but our hope is that all the neighbors purchase them from us until they’re gone; then, we can give the money to a family in need,” Lynn said. All in all, the word has certainly spread about Lost Plantation’s Annual Golf Cart Parade. Although it was not initially opened to the surrounding area, it has certainly grown, so the neighborhood has begun welcoming other participants. In addition, proceeds and donations are now given to outside families if no need is found within the neighborhood. Actually, in 2017, proceeds were donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, one of the largest and most notable breast cancer organizations in the world. “We want our light to shine. We want to open it up to everyone in the whole community. There’s an opportunity for it to continue to grow. What I’d like to see in the future is it become a nighttime parade of golf carts in the city. It is all a visual representation of the love for people in the community and even out of the community. It’s what the season is all about,” Lynn stated. The couple is looking forward to this year’s festivities--a time of family, friends, fun and charity. “It’s a night to look forward to,” Lynn declared.