OLATHE, Kan. – You wouldn’t know it by looking at the display on his front yard, but Paul Craig used to be the Scrooge of all Scrooges at Christmas time.
“I was no fun to be around,” said Craig. “Just did not enjoy the holidays, wouldn’t let myself enjoy them, would even let those around me enjoy them as much as I should have.”
Craig’s mother died of leukemia in 1999, just weeks before Christmas. That made every Christmas downright dreadful. Until 2002, when he played a practical joke on his wife.
“It kind of pulled me out of that funk and gave me a reason to enjoy the holidays again,” said Craig.
His wife Cindy, loves penguins, so he added five inflatables to their front yard. The following year, five became fifteen. Now, Nine years, and 175 blow up penguins later, the Craigs are at capacity.
“Some of them die,” said Craig. “I have a closet full of dead penguins. The fans go out. They just shoot craps and they don’t come back. So, we try to franken-penguin as many of them together as we can – pieces, parts from other ones.”
Craig said once penguins are blown up and the lights plugged in, his electric bill jumps from $300 to more than $2,500 for the thirty or so days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“When you see the eyes of the little kids light up as much as the lights in the penguins it just brings such joy to your heart,” said Craig. “And you hear the screams and yells from all the kids. Then the other part, the good part we’re doing is raising money for the leukemia and lymphoma society.”
So Craig can help find a cure to the disease that robbed his holidays 11 Christmases ago.
Last year Paulie’s Penguins raised $17,000. This year they raised more than $20,000.