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Tree lighting honors family member

The Schupbach family gathered their friends, neighbors, and

The Schupbach family gathered their friends, neighbors, and family members at their home in Levittown to light their 40-foot Vermont Pine tree and to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pictured are Kathy Schupbach, 49; Shannon Schupbach, 8; Jim Schupbach, 53. (Dec. 3, 2011) Credit: Mike Cusanelli

More than 4,000 Christmas lights lit up the Schupbach family’s gigantic Vermont Pine on Saturday night for their annual Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraiser in Levittown.

Kathy and Jim Schupbach gathered more than 100 friends, neighbors and family members at their Copper Lane home to celebrate the holiday season and to raise money for children in need. Over the years, they have raised more than $23,000 for Make-A-Wish.

“Without the help of family and friends, we couldn’t make this possible,” said Kathy Schupbach, 49.

This year marks the Schupbach family’s ninth holiday tree lighting since 2002. The tradition was started in honor of Jim Schupbach’s brother, Bobby, who died of congestive heart failure earlier that year.

Beginning in 2004, the Schupbach family decided to use their yearly event to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which helps sick and terminally ill children to fulfill their dreams.

“It’s the community getting together and doing charitable things and having fun,” said Paul Racioppi, 58, of Levittown. “It’s all about the kids.”

Community members helped the Schupbachs raise money by donating gift baskets that were raffled off. And even Starbucks helped out by donating coffee and tea for those who attended. Santa Claus also made an appearance arriving on the Levittown Fire Department’s truck to help the community light the tree and celebrate the season of giving.

“It reminds me of what the season is about – giving to others and not just to ourselves,” said Pamela Antos, 48, of Levittown.

Jim Schupbach estimated that this year’s event would generate more than $4,000 for Make-A-Wish.

“When you make a donation to Make-A-Wish, they tell you what wish was fulfilled,” said Barbara Peel, 59, of Cutchogue.

Peel’s brother, Ronald Schmidt, was an avid supporter of Make-A-Wish before he died at age 51. She said her participation in this year’s event is a way to support her brother’s favorite charity.

“The internal feeling you get is unbelievable,” she said. “People can turn the world around.”

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