The future of We Care Park is more promising than it was a week ago.
Last week, the park’s founder, Mike Wyant, announced this year would be the last year for the popular park that lights up the north end of Kokomo each Christmas season. However, Wyant was approached by someone interested in continuing the park after he announced it would be shuttering, and now there’s a glimmer of hope for its future.
“It wasn’t going to continue two weeks ago, but there’s potential now. I can’t tell people I changed my mind; no, I haven’t changed my mind. I’ll still be done. But there’s potential for the future, and that’s something new that just came in the last couple days,” said Wyant.
Wyant’s decision to stop putting on the popular display, he said, simply came down to his age. At nearly 75 years old, he said he’s gotten too old to keep up with it, and some of his dedicated volunteered have passed away over the years.
The park, he said, has become too big of an undertaking as he’s gotten older.
“I wanted to get away from it due to the fact I’m getting older, and it’s just tough for me to do it. And I hate it; trust me. I hate it,” he said about his decision to step down.
When Wyant announced the closure of the park after this year, he said he was approached by someone who expressed interest in taking it over. While details are in the early stages and there haven’t been any commitments, Wyant said there’s some promise that the park might live on after he steps away.
Wyant started the park 27 years ago as a way to give back to the community that supported him when he was young. As one of 16 kids, Wyant said his family didn’t have a lot, but he and his siblings always got one toy for Christmas. That meant a lot to them, he said, and for decades, he’s worked to ensure that no children go without a toy for Christmas.
He works year-round to collect new toys that are passed out to children during the We Care Park season, and it amounts to truckloads of toys each year.
Seeing their smiles, he said, is why he continued to put on the park for so many years.
“Being there for the last 26 years has been a pleasure of mine to be able to do this to help other kids. That’s why I’ve done it, for the children. It’s all about helping the people,” he said.
In addition to the park brightening children’s Christmas seasons, the park also serves as a large fund raiser for the local nonprofit We Care. Over the last 26 years, the park has raised around $1 million for it.
No matter what the future holds for We Care Park, Wyant said he will continue to support We Care and encouraged the community to support the nonprofit as well.
“I have nothing against We Care. This (We Care Park) is privately done. We Care has nothing to do with this, but yet I love what We Care has done. I’m there to support them in anything I can, and it just comes a time in a man’s life where he’s got to look on because there’s too much here to take care of,” he said. “We Care has been a big supporter of this community, and I hope people see that. And I hope people will continue that, supporting We Care.”
The decision to step away comes on the heels of a record-breaking year last year. Wyant estimated the park last year saw the most walk-through traffic in its history, something he credited to the unseasonably warm temperatures and a supportive community.
Last year, upwards of 3,000 cups of hot chocolate were passed out on weekend nights, and “thousands and thousands” of toys were given away. The park raised $53,000 for We Care last year.
No matter what the future holds for the park, Wyant found solace in the fact that so many people have enjoyed it over the years.
“I know the community just loves this place, and I do too. I really don’t want to see it go away. I really don’t,” he said. “We’ll just have to see what happens for the future and just hope that things work out for the good of the community.”