Get ready, ya filthy animals. The Turcotte family of Stittsville is upping the ante from last year’s Griswold Christmas display.
Goodbye Uncle Eddie. Hello Kevin McCallister.
“ Home Alone is our second favourite Christmas movie,” said Shawn Turcotte, who said planning began for their homage to the classic comedy even before they dismantled last year’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation set-up.
“It was such a success last year and people kept saying, ‘What are you doing next year?’ They said, ‘You guys should do Home Alone. You could really pull it off with the house that you have,'” Turcotte said.
“So, over the break last year, we were watching Christmas movies and my daughter said, ‘You know … We really could do Home Alone. We could pull that off.’
“I was like, ‘OK, here we go again.'”
Last year’s display proved so popular, Turcotte decided to use the attention to raise funds for the Stittsville Food Bank, raising nearly $50,000 in cash and donations. This year the family chose to spotlight mental health services at CHEO, and they’re aiming high: $100,000.
“It just seemed that, considering everything that was going on, that it would be a natural choice,” Turcotte said. “ There’s been a huge increase in mental health challenges in children since the pandemic started and CHEO’s been unable to service all of them properly because they’re limited in resources.
“Both my wife and I have lost close family members to mental health as kids. It really rings home for us. Back 20 or 30 years ago, kids weren’t diagnosed. They just didn’t have the resources.”
The entire family, parents Shawn and Chantelle and kids Hudson and Kennedy, worked on the display.
The showstoppers of last year’s display were the Griswold’s iconic wood-panelled station wagon and “Uncle Eddie’s” battered RV. This year, Turcotte bought an old Dodge van on Kijiji like the one used by “wet bandits” Harry and Marv, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. After hauling it back from Toronto on a flatbed truck, Turcotte asked contacts at Thomas Cavanagh Construction if the company could paint it blue like the burglars’ Oh Kay Plumbing & Heating van.
“They returned the van six weeks later and it’s the exact replica of the one in the move. The colour is perfect. They did the decals. They did all the props on top. You can’t tell the difference between it and the one in the movie,” Turcotte said.
“Then, four weeks later, they pop over to my house and brought the pizza delivery car.”
The family scrounged up other items from the movie for props. A printing company helped with the life-sized cutout of Michael Jordan that watches from the living room window. A company on Carp Road donated a replica of the jockey statue the pizza boy repeatedly topples during his deliveries.
“We have so many props. The front lawn is just loaded,” Turcotte said. “Last year was more adult-centred with the movie we chose. This year, it’s all about the kids for CHEO and the kids who love Home Alone .”
The importance of family is the central theme to John Hughes’ 1990 slapstick comedy. In the movie, young Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, is accidentally left behind when the rest of his family jets off to Paris for a Christmas vacation. Kevin uses his resources to foil the hapless “wet bandits” who are targeting the house. During his two days home alone, he realizes the importance of family — even ones that bicker and squabble.
Kevin Keohane, president and CEO of the CHEO Foundation, was delighted when the Turcottes approached him with their fundraising idea.
“You can just see their enthusiasm,” said Keohane, who visited the family’s display last Christmas. “Anything this family sets out to do, I don’t underestimate their ability to make it happen.”
The demand for youth mental health services has gone “though the roof” during the pandemic, Keohane said. CHEO is the busiest emergency department of any children’s hospital in Canada and mental health emergencies make up a substantial portion of visits.
“The word unprecedented might be overused these days, but not when it relates to mental health,” he said. “The strain on the system is enormous. The strain on families is enormous. Thanks to community support such as this, we’re working at providing additional resources to our mental health team.”
That means the hospital is now able to provide mental health care around the clock when it used to be only available during regular hours, he said.
“This is the Christmas season and the fact that they take a fun approach to raise money for an issue that’s not funny at all, takes some of the tension out of it. It helps keep the season spirit alive while also recognizing that a lot of people aren’t going to enjoy the season in the same way because they’re dealing with a mental health crisis.
“These are things that need to be dealt with urgently and they don’t wait for the holidays to be over.”
The Turcottes officially kick off their Home Alone display Wednesday night at their house at 18 Cypress Gardens. They’ve set up a website for donations at cheofoundation.com