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Dark day as charitable pair put out lights

THE lights go out tonight for a charitable couple who have raised €160,000 for a good cause.

The price of electricity means that the Moate home of Helen and Jim Dunne will no longer be a sparkling winter wonderland at Christmas time.

With their electricity bill for the period expected to hit €800 this year, Mr Dunne (70) and his 63-year-old wife have decided to put their decorations and lights up for sale.

It marks the end of nine years of successful fundraising by the couple, in aid of the Share A Dream Foundation.

They were inspired by the charity's founder Shay Kinsella telling the story of a child who had his dream to visit a hotel come true just days before he passed away.

"When we first started, people were beating down the door to sponsor the ESB costs," she said. Local companies would help cover the electricity bill and the couple would put up signs to advertise the companies.

But many of those businesses have folded and this year they had just two sponsors -- meaning the cost has become prohibitive.

The house had visitors from Poland, the US, Russia and other far-flung places when it was lit up. All were encouraged to donate to charity but this did not cover electricity costs.

"We've never, ever taken money out of the (charity) boxes to run the lights," said Mrs Dunne.

"We always said that when the day came that we couldn't pay the ESB, that would be the end."

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the 12th day of the holiday, when decorations are taken down.

Ms Dunne said that tonight would be particularly hard for her husband who is "seven at heart and the lights are the joy of his life".

"It has been well worth it to see a child's face when he gets his dream, and to give a whole family the memory of something wonderful," said Mrs Dunne.

At midnight, they'll switch the lights off for the very last time and it will be "like a death in the family", she added. "In a way, we've fulfilled our dream because we've done something for those children. And we will still do our utmost to give a child a dream."

Irish Independent