The Stolarski family stands in front of their incredible yard display. Pictured from left: Chris, Amanda, Josephine, 5, and Annabelle, 11. (Supplied photo)
Sally’s Nightmare on Melvina in Palos Heights
By Kelly White
To the Stolarski family, Halloween is not just a holiday; it is a time to bring people together for a good cause.
Located at 12407 S. Melvina Ave. in Palos Heights, the Stolarski’s beautifully lit haunt features the characters from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
“Halloween is absolutely my favorite holiday. It has been since I was little,” Amanda Stolarski said. “Nightmare before Christmas was one of the first movies I really remember seeing in a theater as a child, so it’s always been a favorite of mine.”
The idea sparked for the display in 2019 when Stolarski and her family, husband, Chris, and children, Annabelle, 11, and Josephine, 5, participated in Palos Heights’ Halloween Decorating Contest.
“I decided to do a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ graveyard scene,” Stolarski said. “I went a little crazy, and we won.”
After that, the Stolarskis joined the Chicago Haunt Builders, a group of other Halloween fanatics who share things they’ve built and encourage each other to pursue more.
The first big prop that started it all was a Jack Animatronic from Menards that Stolarski’s husband bought her for her birthday in 2019. She began building more characters on her own, starting with the iconic movie fountain and the mummy boy from the film.
“It’s only grown from there,” Stolarski said. “We now have more characters, bigger props and animations. Most of the characters, except the 12-foot props, are ones which I’ve built myself. It’s only grown from there. It’s fun to be known as the Halloween house, and my girls really get a kick out of being notorious.”
Stolarski said picking her favorite part of the display is nearly impossible.
“I’ve always collected ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ stuff,” she said. “It’s always been a favorite. I’m a Tim Burton fan. It’s hard to choose, but if I had to it would probably be my fountain because it’s the first one that I ever made or the Harlequin Demon because it’s the first one I ever made with a wiper motor and it was a beast to figure out.”
However, the display means so much more to the Stolarskis, who have decided to use their display to benefit those in need.
“We wanted to collect for some charity, and we wanted it to be something with kids,” Stolarski said.
The family chose Project Fire Buddies, a non-profit organization that partners with the fire departments and has brought smiles to critically ill children since its beginning in 2016.
In its first year, Project Fire Buddies held a Christmas toy drive, collecting presents from generous community members and purchasing some themselves, then the gifts were delivered directly to children’s homes.
Since then, Project Fire Buddies has kept expanding, sponsoring multiple children throughout the calendar year. Aside from showing up in bright red fire engines, Project Fire Buddies bring cheer and gifts, fire department volunteers visit with their fire buddies at home, play games, read books, bring gifts for special occasions, and show the kids just how special they are.
“I had a sister with a disability and chronic illness as a child and when I heard about project Fire Buddies it was really something I could get behind,” Stolarski said. “As a sibling of a kid with health issues, I know how much that can really affect your childhood, so anything bringing joy to those families is a great thing in my book. Plus, we love to support first responders so it just seemed like a good fit.”
People can donate electronically by visiting the Stolarski’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SallysNightmareonMelvina or by dropping a donation into the can on the front porch when visiting the display. All of the donations will go directly to benefit Project Fire Buddies.
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