Christmas Park glows for families doing it tough
As the sun sets and darkness falls over Hall, thousands of twinkling lights begin to shine against the night sky.
Christmas Park is open with its 17-metre-high Christmas tree surrounded by a glowing forest of 400 smaller trees.
Canberra businessman and philanthropist Robert Asdajic built the festive display until 24 December to raise funds for disadvantaged families in local parishes.
The ambitious feat began months ago as a plan to decorate just 10-15 trees for families to enjoy.
“But then,” Robert chuckled, “I like to go big with ideas.”
Along with his daughter Ruzica, he created an entire park dedicated to Christmas instead.
“Each tree has lights. It is spectacular,” he enthused.
“Maybe next year we will have a little train to take people around the trees!”
Each tree in the park is available for sponsorship, with money donated to St Anthony’s Bread.
Croatian Catholic Centre parish priest and St Anthony’s Bread director Fr Anto Simunovic said the humanitarian charity would use the funds to help vulnerable families in Canberra.
“Christmas is not just a memory – it should be the reality of our time,” he said.
“Just as at Christmas we received a gift from Heaven, Jesus, so we should always be a gift to each other and especially to those who are in need.”
Robert said, often, people did not realise how easy it was to find themselves in difficult financial situations almost overnight.
“It can come from nowhere,” he explained.
“It could be a family with a baby who needs medical care. It could be illness strikes and suddenly, you have nothing. That’s where we come in. That’s what we do. We want to give people time to catch their breath and find resources.”
Robert himself has invested over $150,000 into establishing the event.
“If I gave this money to families directly, I can give it once and then it is gone,” he said.
“This way, we put money in and every year, we have more money coming back. Double it, then double it, then double it. We could give it directly and burn $150,000 in one year, but then next year, more families are suffering and we have nothing left.”
In blessing Christmas Park, Holy Spirit assistant parish priest, Fr Anthony Riosa SSS said the event shone with the spirit of Christmas.
“Like Jesus, who is being shared to us as the Bread of Life, we are also called to be bread for others,” he said.
“These people are not only hungry of care, but of love, and we are called to be generous to them. These Christmas trees will indeed support those people who are in need.”
Robert hopes Christmas Park will grow to incorporate thousands of trees in future years.
“We are looking at this for the long term – we will do it every year and make it a big Christmas event, so people can really feel Christmas coming,” he explained.
“I want people coming with their families to sit and watch the Christmas trees. Bring blankets, sit on the grass, get something to eat, listen to the band. There is a jumping castle, fairy floss, ice-cream and sausages. Come and then tell your friends, ‘Wow, you have to see this!’”
Robert is preparing for a big month with the park open every night until Christmas.
“My wife says only Robert,” he laughs.
“Only crazy Rob can do this.”
• Christmas Park is open from 1-24 Dec at the Hall Pony Club. Gates open every night from 6pm -11pm. The event is licensed, and food and drinks will be sold onsite.