Why the Special Needs Community Is Rallying to Save This Haunted House


Nick Thomas has put on an elaborate Halloween show in his neighborhood in Naperville, Illinois, for nearly two decades. Last year, almost 8,000 people visited his display, and YouTube videos of the show go viral almost annually. But this year a new set of rules established by the Ashbury Homeowners Association board has caused Thomas to cancel the festivities, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Many locals are upset about the decision to restrict Thomas’ Halloween display, as he uses the festivities to help collect donations for Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome awareness organization. Last year Thomas raised $6,500 for the group.

Thomas’ godson, who has Down syndrome works at Hug and Mugs, a local business established in conjunction with Gigi’s Playhouse.

One of Thomas’ neighbors, Lara Suleiman, whose daughter also has the genetic condition, told The Mighty in an email that her family is upset about the decision to pull the plug on Thomas’ annual celebration.

“Some neighbors issued complaints and now his efforts have been limited, if not thwarted,” Suleiman wrote to The Mighty.

In an October newsletter, the Ashbury Homeowners Association board noted that their new ”Holiday Decorations Rule” limits residents’ decorations to 50 percent of their yard, excluding lights. Thomas’ display generally includes around 2,000 pieces with lights and synchronized music.

“I am disappointed,” Thomas told the Chicago Tribune. “For a lot of people, the house has become a tradition and it is something people look forward to… I do this for the kids; this is not about me. I do this so that people can come and forget about their problems and have a good time.”

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, neighbor Jim Jandick said, “[While] I mind the thousands of cars — and I do mean thousands of cars — it may be a minor inconvenience for a month, but then you see all the smiling faces… I see one mother and her special needs son come here every day. Every single day.”

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Down Syndrome

Girl With Down Syndrome and Cancer Has Priceless Reaction to Portrait of Herself

On October 1 Rhode Island-based photographer Laura Kilgus hosted a gallery show to bring her community together for Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and not surprisingly, it was a smash success. Kilgus told The Mighty in an email that nearly 200 people showed up to the event, and it was a “happy tears” kind of night. She added that [...]

Portrait Series of Kids With Down Syndrome Spreads Contagious Joy

For the last four years, Rhode Island-based photographer Laura Kilgus has been passionate about helping the Down syndrome community in any way she can. After reaching out to Claudia Lowe, executive director at the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island (DSSRI), Kilgus, 29, has offered complimentary photo services to a number of families involved in [...]

Zombie Filmmakers Have Stellar Advice for Other Teens With Down Syndrome

Last year Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt made headlines when they launched a Kickstarter campaign to gain funding for their yet-to-be-titled zombie movie. After just three weeks on the crowd funding site, 1,494 backers donated $68,936 to the teens, and in August, Suchmann and Zufelt finished principal shooting the film. So what’s next for the [...]

Actor With Down Syndrome Makes Debut on the U.K.’s Longest-Running Soap Opera

Liam Bairstow is the first actor with Down Syndrome to appear on ITV’s hit series “Coronation Street,” and on Sunday, September 13, he made his small screen debut. Joseph Scanlon/ITV Bairstow, 26, starred as main character Cathy Matthews’ nephew, Alex, and he will continue his guest role later this year, The Independent reported. ITV confirmed that Bairstow [...]