Throughout the month of December, Christmas light lovers can visit the quaint community of Grayton Beach and participate in a beloved holiday tradition for a charitable cause.
The brainchild of Brittney Kelley, co-founder and CEO of Tribe Kelley, Grayt Lights was created to help bring awareness to mental health during the holidays by brightening up the historic beach community to help spread hope, light, and peace. Kelley’s love of Grayton Beach began at an early age when her grandmother, who raised her, brought her to the Florida Panhandle every summer. With Grayt Lights, Kelley hopes to share the same joyous feelings the charming community brings her, as well as carry on a family tradition.
Many people deal with private mental health struggles all year long, especially around the holidays. Although the season is joy-filled, it can also be challenging for those struggling with stress, depression, loss, grief, or anxiety. Grayt Lights is a small way that the Grayton Beach community can share holiday magic and happiness to others in the midst of whatever they may be going through, mentally.
“Throughout my childhood, my grandmother and I would ‘go all out’ in decorating our little home for Christmas,” recollected Kelley. “Unfortunately, she passed away right before our favorite holiday during my senior year of high school. The next couple of years I struggled to find that spirit that we both so dearly enjoyed during the holidays. To keep my grandmother’s memory alive, I started hanging up Christmas lights wherever I lived and kept them up all year long. The lights helped heal me, always reminding me of her and bringing me peace.”
Grayt Lights benefits Alaqua Animal Refuge and their Kindness Kollective programs that help people through the powerful effects that interactions with animals have on the human spirit and body. This unique model addresses the mental health challenges of our present world, by creating a program that utilizes the healing power of animals in healing the human heart.
Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood discovered that people from all walks of life, all nationalities, and all ages were drawn to what she created at the Refuge. The common thread that brought them together were the animals, but their stories were all the same.
Many people had experienced some type of trauma in their lives—whether it be physical or mental disabilities, abuse, the loss of a loved one, or the anguish of just surviving in today’s world. It was with the animals that people found the courage to begin their own journey of recovery, improving their own emotional and physical well-being.
Alaqua’s Kindness Kollective aligns perfectly with the Refuge’s vision of creating a kinder, more empathetic, and healthier society for animals and people. From its equine assisted therapy program that utilizes the power of horses to help develop coping devices for navigating life’s challenges, to onsite meditation classes, to yoga with animals, to art and music, to onsite grief counseling, to gratitude days that give back to those in professions that need it the most—Alaqua believes in second chances for all that come to them for a new beginning, a restored happiness, and a renewal of hope.
Voluntary donations are being accepted for #Grayt Lights, and all money collected goes back to Alaqua’s Kindness Kollective programs. Gifts can be made through bit.ly/Grayt-Lights or via scannable links on posters all around #Grayton Beach.
“My utmost desire is that the lights and decorations of Grayt Lights represent that there is hope and light for us all, even if we are experiencing darkness in our lives,” iterated Kelley.
This is the first year of Grayt Lights, but with Kelley’s continued passion it will not be the last as she hopes to grow it into an annual event with even more lights and holiday splendor.
About Alaqua Animal Refuge Alaqua Animal Refuge is a no-kill animal shelter and sanctuary, located in the panhandle of Florida. As the Southeast’s premier 501(c)3 refuge, Alaqua believes that every abused, neglected and homeless animal deserves a second chance. Committed to providing protection, shelter and care to animals in need, this private, non-profit Refuge also offers a full-service adoption center, educational outreach, and community programs that extend far beyond their geographic location. Since its inception in 2007, Alaqua, led by Founder Laurie Hood, has become a recognized leader in animal rescue, welfare, cruelty prevention, and advocacy. Alaqua is currently in the midst of a relocation and expansion capital campaign to build a one-of-a-kind facility—the first in the United States—on 100 acres. The new facility and sanctuary will allow Alaqua to continue to do the important work of animal rescue and rehabilitation, as well as be an educational and training center for animal welfare advocates as a place that will inspire, empower, and educate others to make change in our society and recreate the model worldwide. To learn more, visit http://www.alaqua.org/