STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Starting with a simple idea, people all across Northeast Ohio lined their properties, porches and balconies with luminaries In effort to usher in a brief reprieve of positivity and togetherness amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The campaign to bring shining examples of positivity took hold in Strongsville this week when resident Tom Maibauer floated the idea in his neighborhood Facebook group.
“We’re all kind of distanced apart right now and … being asked to be separated. We can still come together and support each other,” Maibauer said. “I just felt like there was a lot of negativity surrounding this whole thing. Everybody was just getting beside themselves with all the negativity and I just felt like there needed to be some kind of positive in this whole thing.”
Maibauer initially anticipated a few hundred people to participate. However, the idea quickly gained traction on social media, eventually leading to tens of thousands of people who said they’d partake in the event. The participants spanned coast to coast and even internationally.
“We tried to focus on something more positive instead of all the negative. This was something positive to give us the hope to keep us going every day,” said Stacey Swansiger of Strongsville. “I was beyond shocked as well as others in the group about how far this has gone. I’m hoping that everybody is enjoying seeing the lights up and we’ll see how far it goes.”
Swansiger, who has spent the past 18 days on self-imposed quarantine because of her chronic health issues, helped line her entire property in LED lights. Eventually, her display spanned her entire block. As soon as the sun set on Sunday night, a steady stream of cars and socially-distanced groups of people walked by to get a peek.
“No matter what’s going on in your life, it doesn’t matter. This virus get any one of us. It’s nice to know that we are not in this by ourselves and we are hoping that everybody will see that and unite across the nation,” Swansiger said.
Although being on quarantine has been difficult, especially because she and her husband both have large families, the ‘Unite the Night’ event brought some much-needed smiles, she said.
“In the darkest of storms you always want to find that light to guide you through,” Swansiger said.
Organizers said they plan on repeating the event every Sunday night until the pandemic is over.