Community Giving

Chad and Angie Koosman

Community Foundation(s): Willmar Area
Award: 2018 WACF Innovative Impact Award

There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it – Edith Wharton. Not only do the Koosman’s reflect it, but they are the torch that brought the community together to shine millions of lights on the reason for the season.

It’s amazing what inspiration and a little friendly competition can do, as evidenced by the initial spark that ignited “Celebrate the Light of the World.” Chad Koosman has always been driven to give back and make a difference, so he began volunteering for the Salvation Army as a bell ringer. Soon enough a competition that Captain Randy Stahl presented to ringers, challenged Chad to ringing bells for up to 160 hours in one season. He began dreaming up ways to out-fundraise what bell ringing brought in. He decided to collect donations for the Salvation Army at his home, where he had a Christmas light display.

Chad’s idea brought in $800 in donations that first year, but quickly snowballed into nearly $20,000 the following year. As Chad continued to make the light display bigger and better, the donations continued to grow. Celebrate the Light of the World raised $810,000 in its first 10 years.

The light display not only formed a sense of community, but also formed the Koosman family itself. The lights brought Chad and Angie together, twinkled over their engagement at the display, and their young daughter loved falling asleep to her favorite “nightlight”. The Koosman’s have several cherished memories operating Celebrate the Light, but both agree their favorite memories are the stories from the community and the difference the light display made.

As they hand the torch over to Willmar Fests, Chad and Angie hope that Celebrate the Light continues to grow while staying true to its roots and that even more community members will make it a part of their traditions.

The Koosmans will miss the generosity and kindness of the community, encompassing everything from someone donating her last few pennies to the Marcus Construction family stepping up to volunteer their time with several aspects of the display.

Chad says that anyone wishing to give back should also have a bit of fun and remember that, “It’s not just money that can change a life. Mentoring someone can impact them even more.” Angie adds, “We can all make a difference, whether it’s one penny, a dollar, or ten thousand dollars. Focus on helping others and the great things we can do as a community.”