For 25 years, the warm glow of hundreds of luminaries have lit Dupont/King’s Highway on Christmas Eve. The annual event not only brings neighbors together, but it has raised over $50,000 for the Minneapolis-based Domestic Abuse Project (DAP). Starting at 5 p.m., eight blocks will be filled with good cheer, thanks in a large part to the work of two friends.
Mickey O’Kane and Kathryn Ringham have lived next to each other for years. It was in 1999 when they decided that a luminary along four blocks of Dupont Ave from 42nd to 46th streets would be a fine way to ring in the new millennium. Those first few years, they lit luminaria on the first night of Hanukkah, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
With the help of eight block captains, about 1,000 paper bags and candles are distributed to homes along the route. Each gets between six to 20 – and one has 45. They are spaced about six feet apart and held down by a cup of sand or kitty litter.
The lummies now stretch from the original 42nd-46th streets and then go round the King’s Highway corner for another four blocks towards Lake Harriet Boulevard.
Neighbors walk up and down the block, socializing and singing carols.
“Luminarias are used all over the world on special occasions and ‘light the way’ as a symbol of unity and caring for those less fortunate,” observed Ringham.” At this time of the year, with numerous holidays incorporating the bringing of light (plus the solstice), luminarias bring the glow of warmth to the winter nights.”
“Kathy and I have received numerous notes over the years from our neighbors. We really love the joy and feeling of community that we hear about in those notes. This tradition has made all of us feel closer and more grateful for what we all have. Lighting those candles is one more ‘chore’ to take care of during an extremely busy time of the year, but the neighbors still look forward to being part of this,” said O’Kane. “I used to kid the new neighbors that I hoped it was made clear in their purchase agreement that duty calls on Dec. 24. I don’t think it’s caused a sale to fall through yet.”
This year, organizers are working with the park board and the city to see if they would be willing to turn off the new and extremely bright lights that are now on the boulevard. “When we got new lights a couple of years ago, a lot of the ‘candle magic’ disappeared,” observed O’Kane. “While we just recently received permission to have the lights turned off, we’re in the midst of seeing if we can qualify/afford the required insurance. I’m still hoping for a miracle, but either way, lights on or lights off, the luminaries will go on.”
The Dupont Luminary was featured in a 2013 Southwest Journal article, and in another in 2018. “It’s so interesting to read that in 2013, we were hoping to go over the $10,000 mark and last year we topped $50,000! You can see how generous and caring this group is,” said O’Kane. “Their support and allegiance to DAP is really quite overwhelming.”
For years now, each house has contributed $15 to buy the necessary candles, paper bags and sand, and matched that with a donation earmarked for the Domestic Abuse Project. Anything left over from the supply budget is also donated.
O’Kane became involved with the Domestic Abuse Project in 2003 as a board member. “It just touched me because they deal not just with the women and children, but they deal with the men,” she said in the 2013 article. DAP assists about 3,000 men, women and children a year with whole family, wrap-around services for domestic violence. The operate a holistic victim survivor program with support groups, a youth program, intervention program for individuals who use violence, case management, and advocacy. The First Call crisis hotline can be reached at 612-874-7063 x 232 or email@example.com.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, DAP has seen a 37% increase in need for victim services. Due to limited resources, DAP has put 244 people on wait lists or referred them elsewhere.
Join the Dupont Luminaries to help “shine a light” on domestic violence (DV), urge O’Kane and Ringham. “As DV rates increase during the holiday season, the luminaries continue to increase awareness for those impacted by DV.”
They are glad to be in a community that has brightened not only their neighborhood but the lives of families struggling with domestic violence.