Cooks Fundraising Christmas Lights Celebrates Sixth Year

Every year, the Cook family puts on a Christmas light show as a fundraiser. (Photo courtesy the Cook family)

JACKSON – Christmas really does come in July, or at least the summer, for the Cooks.

In its sixth year, The Cooks Christmas Lights will light up at 1 Carlson Court to help raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. To date, the Cooks have raised more than $21,000 for the organization. One-hundred percent of the donations received go to the MS Society.

The tradition didn’t start out as a fundraiser. Michael Cook and his wife Carol played around with a 16-channel sequencer and synchronized seven songs to lights that first year.

Photo courtesy The Cook Family

“We like Christmas and we like Christmas lights,” Michael Cook said in a phone interview Nov. 7 with The Jackson Times. He was sitting at this kitchen table, testing 300 lights before starting the long installation process outside the house.

In its second year, having attracted visitors who viewed the show and asked if they took donations, Michael and Carol, whose son suffers from MS, decided to adopt the National MS Society as its benefactor for donations.

It’s grown to nearly 33,000 lights and eight songs, four new this year. This includes the 3,200-light spiral mega tree and four singing Christmas tree faces. Two years ago, the family added a 1,008-bulb pixel matrix, which will make another appearance this year.

It takes months to put in all the work to synchronize the lights to music, finagle the electrical equipment and then install all the displays. The work starts in the summer and gets tweaked up until the first show after Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy The Cook Family

And, of course, there are the candy canes. Michael Cook gave out more than 7,000 last year, and hopes to top that number this year.

Their fundraising efforts have caught the attention of the National MS Society. This year, on Dec. 9, the family will be recognized during the Society’s Breakthrough’s event in Iselin. The event includes keynote speakers and a time to recognize those who raise money for MS research. It’s the first year the Cooks have been invited to attend.

The Cooks Christmas Lights starts Nov. 24 and runs through New Year’s Day. Guests can view the show Sundays through Thursdays, 6-10 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays 6-11 p.m. Viewing instructions are posted by their driveway, but guests should tune into FM 100.9.

Photo courtesy The Cook Family

Michael Cook asked that visitors make sure to turn off headlights to better enjoy the show. Please don’t block neighbors’ driveways. A place to leave donations will be clearly marked.

For updates and more information, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/cookschristmasnj/.

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Ocean County native Jennifer Peacock is a community journalist and photographer. She’s written for weekly and daily newspapers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia for more than 20 years. Readers can contact her at jpeacock@jerseyshoreonline.com.