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Backers Want Theme Park in Christmas for Sick Children

May 9, 2009

CHRISTMAS -- The sign outside Becky Hamilton's Country Craft 'N Christmas shop on East Colonial Drive counts the days until Christmas is here. If a Sanford church group is successful, the sign will say "always."

The nonprofit, called Christmas Dreams Inc., wants to turn part of the east Orange community into a North Pole wonderland where the jolly season would never end.
The group is trying to raise money to build a theme park for use mostly by terminally ill children and their families.

"We'd be able to say that it's always Christmas in Christmas," said the Rev. Jeff Dixon, a project proponent and pastor at Covenant Community Church in Sanford.

The group's vision is for families to spend several days at the park after taking a "time machine" limo from the airport to Christmas.

The park would be built inside a large warehouse, where reindeer would fly in the snow to Santa's house. The park would feature a giant Christmas tree, 25-plus feet high.

Group president LeeAnn Stayer said that if her dream comes true, families with a terminally ill child could celebrate the holiday any time of the year.

"This all comes out of the idea that we are called to make the world a better place and that the world should be better for us being here," said Stayer, an associate minister at the Covenant church.
Though the project is in the early stages, organizers met with members of the Christmas Civic Association, including Hamilton, to pitch their concept.

"I couldn't be more delighted about what they want to do," said Hamilton, the civic association secretary whose shop sells Christmas decorations year-round. "It would be wonderful for us."

The project's estimated cost to open is $12 million. That figure doesn't seem to intimidate organizers, who started fundraising in December.

They recently got the support of Huey Magoo's Chicken Tenders, a Winter Springs restaurant that donated 20 percent of its sales from a three-day grand opening. The promotion raised about $2,000 for the cause.

There's a long way to go, however. The group plans to sell about 12,000 memorial bricks at $1,000 or $5,000 apiece to pave the park's Santa Claus Lane.

They have sold two bricks.

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