Published Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010 | 11:48 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010 | 5:33 p.m.
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The rain has dampened the whimsy — and the revenue — from Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest on Oakey Boulevard.
The nonprofit organization’s largest holiday fundraiser, with more than 3 million lights, is water logged from the weather and was forced to close its doors four out of the last six days it has been raining.
Last year, the forest fundraiser brought in $1.4 million for the Las Vegas nonprofit, which provides community and job opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. This year, according to Chief Operating Officer Geena Mattox, the group – which is 80 percent self-funded – is already about $250,000 short of where it typically would be.
“The rain was devastating to us,” Mattox said, surveying the damage on Wednesday afternoon. “It translates to our services. It’s a rough time in the economy. The people hurt the most are the most vulnerable: Our clients who rely on our services.”
“We had bad weather the other years, but the timing of this is really the issue,” said executive director Ed Guthrie. “If you have bad weather in November, (visitors) can come back in December. But the last week before Christmas is when we have record numbers of visitors. This is tough.”
Mattox stepped over large puddles as she walked through the desolate Magical Forest, pointing at the red and green paint running down wooden Christmas ornaments.
“It looks like a hunter came through the Magical Forest,” she said.
The rain blew out several electrical systems, rendering the children’s train inoperable. Clear plastic sheets covered the red velvet seats at a silver Cinderella carriage display, which is one of more than 100 sponsored by local companies and groups. At another exhibit, a cardboard cutout of Elvis looked forlornly over the forest trail.
“We started with three trees and a table. It’s amazing how it grew,” Mattox said, with a wistful tone in her voice. “It’s been a tough year for us with the (South Main Street thrift store) fire and the rain. This is the longest we haven’t been open.”
Opportunity Village officials said they hope to re-open the Magical Forest on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. It would take a Christmas miracle for Opportunity Village to repair the exhibit, which took three months to set up, Mattox said,
The soggy white “snow” foam and the wrapped cardboard “gift” boxes will have to be thrown out and replaced. Electrical wiring will have to be tested for safety. The haystack maze will have to be dried out, and the temporary water trap puddles on the mini golf greens will have to be drained.
Bringing the Magical Forest back to life could cost upwards of $20,000, Mattox said.
But, that isn’t stopping Opportunity Village from looking forward. Mattox said the group is thinking about arranging other fundraisers to recoup their losses, which by the end of the week could be as much as $300,000.
Any online donations made over the next 48 hours will be earmarked for the Magical Forest. Las Vegans looking to do some last-minute Christmas shopping can visit the newly-opened Opportunity Village thrift store, 4600 Meadows Lane.
Donations can be made by visiting www.opportunityvillage.org, and clicking the “donate” button.
“This is kind of an emergency for us,” Mattox said. “If (residents each) made a $10 cash donation through our website, it would change everything for our clients counting on us.”