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Light display brightens lives at St. Mary’s

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Photo gallery

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Whitesone resident John Xenakis, 19 months, gets a closer look at the display. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Sophia Zheng, 3, of Bayside peers at the holiday decorations. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Dozens of people travel to the house each night to see the display. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Daniel Sin, 2, of College Point looks at the lights with his uncle Jong Kim. Photo by Christina Santucci
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An elf hangs on a reindeer. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Nearly every inch of the home is covered in decorations. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A giant toy soldier decorates the yard. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Candy canes line the fence. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Hundreds of decorations cover the front yard. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The lights strung on trees tower above the home. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Sophia Zheng, 3, of Bayside peers at the holiday decorations. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A tiny carousel and other items are displayed in a glass case. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Santa peeks out from the lawn. Photo by Christina Santucci

As part of an annual holiday tradition, one of Bayside’s most colorful homes is helping to brighten the lives of some children who can always use some extra cheer.

For more than 10 years now, visitors have flocked to Anthony Cardinale’s home, at 212-05 32nd Ave., on December nights to look at the dazzling spectacle celebrating the season with high-voltage verve. They leave donations — a dollar here, $5 there — which Cardinale collects and gives to St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital.

“They came by my house one year with a lot of children from St. Mary’s in wheelchairs and the breathing apparatus and equipment they need to survive, and I asked, ‘How can we help?” said Cardinale, who estimated he pulled in about $5,000 for the hospital this year. “We decided in addition to the lighting we’d add donations as part of the Christmas display.”

The hospital, at 29-01 216th St. in Bayside, provides long-term rehabilitation and special care for approximately 4,000 children in nine counties in the metropolitan area, many of whom live with complications stemming from premature birth.

“The holidays are a wonderful time of year when people think of the children and lots of community groups come in and visit and hold fund-raisers on our behalf,” said hospital spokeswoman Leslie Johnson.

“[Cardinale’s home] really brings the joy to the children. It’s wonderful. And not just the children, but the staff as well. We all really look forward to it,” she said.

Cardinale said it takes him about six weeks to prepare his two-story home and yard with hundreds of feet of holiday lights, candy canes, snowmen, reindeer, Santas, wreaths, Christmas trees, figurines and 9-foot-tall mechanical nutcracker soldiers.

“People from everywhere, from all over New York, come by and love it,” he said. “They’re amazed.”

Cardinale said he has enjoyed decking his walls for the season ever since he was a child.

“It started when I grew up in a Forest Hills apartment building. Sixty-two years my mother’s lived there. We used to decorate the three-story apartment building and that’s how I got this decorating craziness,” he said.

The father of three said his eldest sons, ages 24 and 19, did not quite catch the bedecking bug from him, but he still holds out hope that 4-year-old Nicholas will retain some of the enthusiasm he has.

Warmer winters like the one we just had, Cardinale said, make it easier to set up his house, and more efficient lights make it easier on his wallet. Most of the lights on his home are LEDs, and he estimated his electricity bill spiked just about $500 this time around.

“Ten years ago I would have told you it was $3,000 for the month of December,” he said. “It’s for a good purpose, beside the fact that everybody enjoys it. It’s really a bonus to help the children’s hospital.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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