Local News

Arthur man’s Christmas display shines a light on mental health awareness

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo by: Neisha Lamarre

An Arthur man is raising awareness about mental health, and trying to raise funds for the child and adolescent inpatient mental health (CAIP) unit, at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.

When Scott Tonelli’s son, Shane, was 13-years-old, he had a manic episode and was taken to the CAIP unit at Grand River Hospital.

Tonelli said his son was diagnosed six or seven different times and there was no aftercare for him.

“And I’ve told people, you know, picture being a father with your kid kind of lifeless in your arms, and you’re going, ‘what do you mean there is no bed? And there’s no help?’” Tonelli said.

From that moment on, Tonelli decided to start saving all his change to buy a bed for his son, thus creating Change 4 Change, a public Facebook group dedicated to the cause.

It wasn’t until a few years ago, where Tonelli said he had a knock on his door, and two little girls with their father handed him a pre-paid visa card, because they admired his “magical” Christmas lights display.

Tonelli said that’s when he had his eureka moment, and decided that he wasn’t going to buy a bed, he was going to invest his change into light shows, to try to drum up change from others.

“I spent the last two years now building a light show to help either another family that went through what I went through, or to fund a bed, whatever that is,” Tonelli said. “I want to shed light on it that the fact that mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of or to hide from, it should be talked about.”

Tonelli said the whole display is made up of computerized smart nodes, it runs 42 minutes in length, and it took him roughly 2000 hours to set up.

His goal is to raise $4500 and he stated that there isn’t enough funding for children that suffer from mental health illnesses, and he wants to change the stigma.

“Mental health isn’t a bad thing, as much as it’s difficult and terrible to deal with sometimes, like I said, and I hate to downplay it like a cough or a cold, but those are socially acceptable illnesses,” Tonelli expressed. “Why is mental health not accepted as much as it should be? Because we can’t see it, that’s why.”

There are a number of ways people can donate, the easiest is going out to enjoy the light show at, 105 Schmidt Drive in Arthur, and donating on the premises.

Another way is checking out Tonelli’s Facebook page, Change 4 Change and donating through a QR code. Or, people can send an e-transfer to tonelli14@hotmail.com and chfourch@outlook.com.

All donations go directly to the CAIP unit at the Grand River Hospital.

The show runs every night from 6 to 11 p.m. until the new year.