PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Frank Picozzi calls it “a little thing,” but the kids who smile at the light of his labor probably think it’s much more than that.
Picozzi’s Warwick home has long been one of those spots that glow from a distance and run up the electric bill about the time Thanksgiving leftovers are consumed.
He’s been lighting up his eaves, yard and trees for decades, and about 10 years ago he boosted the show, adding even more lights and some computer-driven, synchronized music that you could tune in to from your car.
Every season since, hundreds of people have done just that, some even donating to his chosen charitable cause, The Tomorrow Fund.
This year, Picozzi and his grandson Tyler concocted an even brighter idea.
They decided to take a part of the show on the road in his pickup truck.
In the shadows of where I-95 meets I-195, in a vacant lot in Providence, the first sign that something different is about to happen is the sound of the Picozzi elves cranking up a portable drill.
“For me, I’m a Christmas guy,” the elder Picozzi says. “So, it was just a no-brainer. I love kids. I love Christmas.”
In the chill of one of the coldest nights of the year, Frank and Tyler go to work, checking all the connections and syncing up a laptop.
“Okay,” Picozzi tells Tyler. “Let’s test it.”
If you’ve driven by the Picozzi home, you know what he can do to illuminate Christmas spirit on a house.
Now, it was about to get a lot brighter in that dark field.
“What time is it?,” Picozzi asks Tyler. “8:02? That’s early.”
A small crowd begins to huddle together, some carrying flashlights and battery operated strings of bulbs.
Within view, several stories up, children who wish they were home for the holiday wait with their fingers poised on their own assortment of lights.
Time to check the clock again.
“It was just a no-brainer. I love kids. I love Christmas.”
“Twenty-seven after?,” Picozzi asks. “We’ve got about three minutes.”
Cartoonist and frequent Hasbro Children’s Hospital volunteer Steven Brosnihan started Good Night Lights several years ago with one light from a bus stop, blinking it toward the young patients around their 8:30 bedtime.
In 2015, he convinced several businesses to double down and make the message of hope and support even brighter by flashing their lights and signs toward the hospital.
Last year, East Providence police joined the light show from the East Bay bike path.
Now, Frank, Tyler and a few dozen others who came to the chilly field to inspire smiles are part of the moment.
“All here to say goodnight to the kids,” Picozzi says as he goes live on Facebook. “To show them that they’re thinking about them.”
A few ticks before 8:30, the lights go out at Hasbro.
And in the field, in the back of the pickup…
“Alright, Ty. It’s close enough. Hit it!”
The lights go on and cheers erupt. The kids in the hospital flash their thankful beams back; Message received.
“They’re sick kids at Christmastime,” Picozzi says after the mobile tree is glowing. “It was just something I had to do.”
“I just wanted to give them a little bit of Christmas, and their families a little bit of comfort,” he added. “It’s just a little thing I’m doing. I really can barely get through it without choking up.”
And he’s heard back from the hospital that the kids are enjoying the lighted Christmas card, as they fight to get better and go home.Email Walt at email@example.com with you story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.