ELGIN, SC (WIS) - On Thursday night an annual holiday lights tradition returns to Kershaw County, but when the switch flips for Elgin Lights, some new exhibits will also shine bright.
Now in its 19th year, Elgin Lights has added a dollhouse exhibit. The building is filled with dolls dating back to the 1930s and 40s and even some original Barbie dolls, but it's who the dollhouse is dedicated to that means the world to one Lexington family.
"There she is," said Paul Towns, owner of Elgin Lights, as he pointed to the sign reading Kaylin's Dollhouse.
It was an incredible moment for Suzanne Kruse, Kaylin's mom, and Suzanne's mom, Mary.
"Thank you so much. That is beautiful," said Suzanne as she hugged Towns.
"If one person comes through this Christmas show, looks at that, and says you know what, 'I need to do something for childhood cancer,' that's what it's
for," added Towns.
Five-year-old Kaylin Zimms passed away in late August from Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Her legacy has been brought to life inside the new dollhouse.
"I think it captures her personality perfectly," said Suzanne. "It's incredible to know her story is going to continue. We try to do our best to keep her legacy going, but things like this with big-hearted, great people that just do these things out of the kindness of their heart, and just help everyone get to know Kaylin, because I think everyone should have been able to meet her."
Paul Towns never got to meet Kaylin. He said the dollhouse exhibit was in the works when he and his wife Sarah saw her story.
"Watching the news," said Towns. "I thought, 'We have got to dedicate the building in Kaylin's name and keep her memory alive.'"
Kaylin's mom said so many details inside the dollhouse reflect the daughter who often played with the dollhouse at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital
"Everything, the colors, the dolls, the uniqueness of it all," said Suzanne.
"The small candy canes are a big thing," she added, pointing to one of the dollhouses that is decorated for Christmas. "She used to go to the assisted living communities and pass out candy canes to all the residents. And that was her favorite thing to do for Christmas."
Suzanne said the dollhouse dedication is by far the best Christmas present they could have received during a difficult holiday season. Towns said it's
been a gift to be able to put it together for the family.
"It's hard to see them and everything, but that's what we do it for," said Towns. "That's why we do the whole Christmas show."
Since 2004 Towns has put on the show in memory of Cole Sawyer and given all donations to Camp Kemo. Towns' efforts are priceless to families like Kaylin's.
"We just need so many more of you in the world to do this and keep these kids legacies alive," said Suzanne as she looked at Towns.
"It's just an incredible feeling to know that purpose continues and hopefully through this it helps to bring awareness and appreciation to all kids that are fighting these battles and their families. Because the story doesn't end when they're finished here, it continues on because new children are diagnosed every day. This is just a fantastic way to bring awareness for all children going through this and it's just a beautiful, beautiful thing."
Towns has done all of this while fighting his own cancer battle. He's had Lymphoma for the last 12 years. In addition to dedicating Kaylin's dollhouse Wednesday night, they will dedicate the train exhibit in honor of Paxton Pate and the tractor exhibit in honor of Richard Culliver. Both are local boys who also died of cancer.
Thursday night Elgin Lights will open to the public. The light and exhibit show is free and will stay open from December 15th through the 24th from 6-9 p.m.