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Long Island man raises funds, holiday spirits with light display

James Blake's holiday light display in East Patchogue aims to solicit donations to help a sick child who asked the Make-a-Wish Foundation to send him to Harry Potter World in Orlando, Fla. On Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, Blake said the funds would go to a 9-year-old boy named George who suffers from renal disease. (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger)

What does it take to grant a little boy with a life-threatening disease a magical wish? About 20,000 Christmas lights might just do it.

James Blake, 60, of East Patchogue, has decked out his home with lights, animated decorations, a mini-ski slope, and a small ice rink to help raise money for George, a 9-year-old child from Westhampton who has end-stage renal disease.

George, whom Blake has never met, hopes to go to Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Make-A-Wish Foundation is raising money for his dream trip, which would cost about $7,000. Donations from Blake’s Christmas display will go directly toward granting George’s wish.

“Mr. Blake is a wonderful, well-hearted man that is giving back to these children during a time that they need it most,” said Kellie Ryan, community relations manager for the Suffolk Chapter of Make-A-Wish.

George’s wish is one of the many being granted during the holiday season, which is an especially busy time for the organization, Ryan said. George would go on the trip — which is being planned as a surprise — at the end of December to celebrate the New Year with his family.

Blake’s lawn looks like a winter wonderland, with displays depicting reindeer, gingerbread, giant presents, snowmen, and popular cartoon characters including Mickey Mouse and Snoopy.

This is the second year Blake has set up his light display to help raise money for Make-A-Wish. The display kicked off on Saturday, with hot chocolate and cookies served amid the sparkling lights. According to Blake, about 150 people attended that night, raising $500 in donations.

Blake said about 30 to 40 cars stop by every night, and people offer donations. Over the weekend, he hopes to raise $500 each night.

“At this time of the year, everybody’s looking for peace and tranquility,” Blake said. “When they come here, they feel better when they leave.”

Blake said he has a nephew with autism who was granted a wish a few years ago. The boy, who loves to swim, asked for a new pool liner instead of a trip.

One of Blake’s sisters was also involved with fundraising for Make-A-Wish before she died last year. Blake decided to take up the torch after her death.

It took 2 1⁄2 weeks to set up the lights, he said. Blake suffers from peripheral neuropathy, which affects nerves in his feet and legs and can make it hard to move around, so he had to rely on someone else to assemble rooftop decorations like Santa’s sleigh and reindeer.

“I nicknamed him Jimmy Christmas,” said Blake’s neighbor, Linda Szklarski, 62, who said she has seen many people trying to pose their kids within the display for pictures. “He loves this.”

The lights will stay up until at least Jan. 6, and Blake plans to put out cookies and hot chocolate for kids every Sunday from 5 to 7 p.m., he said.

He hopes to make the display even bigger next year, but admits it is getting a bit crowded.

“There’s not too much left on the property for me to put any more,” Blake said.

The house is located in the 500 block of Amsterdam Avenue in East Patchogue.

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