The street is known for its dazzling Yuletide light show and displays, which start on Thanksgiving and end after New Year’s. And right in the middle of it is the annual “Cocoa for a Cure” fundraiser held in the courtyard of the Freitas family at 3616 Garrison St.
This year, the 14th installment of the hot-chocolate charity event is being held from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. The fundraiser will benefit the fight against juvenile diabetes, which has impacted several local families in the Point Loma community.
Last year’s Garrison Street charity fundraiser recipient was Will Barton, a 21-year-old Point Loma High School alum who was shot in a case of mistaken identity near Balboa Park and critically wounded — only to rebound slowly but surely beyond the wildest expectations of doctors, who gave the victim almost no chance of survival. The neighborhood raised over $4,000 for his family.
Festivities, the charity fundraiser among them, are all in the spirit of the holidays and giving back, said Kyle Ybarra who, along with wife, Carrie, run Cocoa for a Cure and are among neighbors on the street who pitch in to make things happen every year.
Kyle Ybarra said the charity fundraiser has really taken off from what it started out as.
“Our daughter and three of her friends 14 years ago wanted to raise a little money to buy Barbie dolls and other things for a young girl up from Mexico who had surgery while she was in the hospital,” he said.
That inaugural fundraiser netted $60.
“Every year for 14 years it’s (revenue’s) increased. Last year we raised $5,000 in one night. We’re hoping to exceed that this year, he said.
Someone or something different benefits every year from the “chocolate charity,” Kyle said.
“Over the years, we’ve always tried to select either a charity that can assist local families, or a specific individual, like a friend of our daughter’s who was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago,” he said.
Guests at Cocoa for a Cure can purchase hot chocolate for $1 a cup, as well as other family baked goods and a number of items donated by local merchants selling for 50 cents to a dollar.
“We also have a jar, as well fo,r folks who don’t want cocoa and just want to make a straight donation,” said Ybarra, “One hundred percent of all the proceeds go to charity. Absolutely nothing comes out to pay for the light displays.”
But Cocoa for a Cure is just one aspect of the Garrison Street Christmas celebration on the block between Chatsworth Boulevard and Garrison Place. The annual tradition of lighting up the block was begun by the mother-daughter team of Nazare Caboz and Carolynn Freitas, neighbors on Garrison, in an attempt to “brighten up the street.”
The holiday lighting tradition began without anything elaborate — just a small nativity scene. Then there was a Santa in the window. Then angels in the windows. Then Mickey Mouse characters in the windows.
Other homes nearby joined in adding lights and other things, like big blow-up displays of Santa Claus and his reindeer, snowmen and other Christmas icons.
“It’s really only eight or nine homes total, but it seems like a lot more because of all of the lights,” said Kyle.
Garrison Street neighbor Richard McLaughlin said his Christmas display, which one neighbor likened to “Disneyland,” started out small with add-ons every year, and has turned into something quite large a decade later.
“My daughter, Casey, started doing it (lights). It was a nice hobby for her,” he said. “We built some little houses out front and filled them up with Santa Clauses and other things with lots and lots of lights.”
McLaughlin said Christmas Eve is the biggest — and best — night for viewing everyone’s holiday display.
“It’s just chaos that night,” he said. “People from the bus line stop off. We have Santa Claus out front talking to all the kids. Christmas Eve is the big event. After that it starts slowing down.”
Nazare Judd, a granddaughter in the family that started the Garrison Street Christmas tradition, said the “light show” started as a friendly competition 27 years ago between her mother and her grandmother that “got out of control.”
“Year by year, it grew and all the neighbors started doing it and new families came and joined in and it’s become a great tradition that’s adored by people around the county,” Judd said. “We have people who’ve been coming back every year who say, ‘I used to come here as a little kid.’ Now there are second- and third-generations of people coming back to see it. It’s really neat.”
Judd said most neighbors are modest about discussing their Christmas displays, which she said have evolved into something really remarkable.
“Every window has a little display,” she said. “There’s possibly hundreds of thousands of lights. You can get out of your car and go down a walkway that connects all the different individual displays. There’s even a display honoring fallen heroes from the police, fire and military.”
Judd said it now takes as long as three or four weeks to set up some of the Christmas displays, which collectively consume so much power when all the lights are on that “SDG&E electric meters start going in the opposite direction there’s so much power (used) in our block.”
McLaughlin admits the annual Christmas light display is no small expense. But he said it’s all worth it.
“We do it for the community,” he said. “We get a lot of thanks from people for doing it.”