‘Dahl’ house: Couple turns home into a holiday wonderland for a good cause

Walking into Maddie and Theo Dahl’s North Naples home is like entering a whimsical holiday storybook. Of course, whimsical stories do run in the family. Theo’s dad was Roald Dahl author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and many other well-known children’s books. This time the imaginative credit goes to the next generation of Dahls and their magical home.

Almost every room is blanketed with decorations from miniature Santas to towering trees. The 40 trees are brimming with so many ornaments, you barely see the branches. Each tree has a theme. There’s a room with an under the sea holiday motif and a room with an old-fashioned holiday look. There are traditional, modern and classic designs. Even the kitchen has baubles and streamers hanging from the chandelier and the tops of cabinets are lined with holiday décor.

“Christmas makes me happy,” Maddie said when asked about her extreme decorating

“I like it because it is bright and it is festive and people come into our home and they enjoy looking around and just taking it all in,” Theo added.

This year about 150 people will get the chance when the Dahls host a charity event that will raise money for the Lee Health Foundation to help build the Lee Health Regional Cancer Center in Bonita Springs. The Dahls are paying for everything from the food and drinks to the live string quartet, to the photos done in the Willy Wonka sleigh.

“I get such enjoyment that I don’t mind paying for it,” Maddie said. “One hundred percent goes to the charity, and that’s important for people to know. It is not just a posh evening out. It really is a charity event.”

The Dahls say the cause is important to them. One of their employees has cancer and has to travel to Fort Myers for treatment. Having a center to serve Bonita Springs and North Naples will be more convenient for the employee and others that need treatment. The cancer center will be a one-stop place providing services including blood tests, chemotherapy and doctor visits.

Dr. Mark Roh, chief physician executive of Oncology Services, said the cancer center in Bonita Springs is expected to open in April.

Holy communion! Bonita Springs wine company donates inventory

Reissued: Bonita woman’s beloved Hilderbrand books, claimed by Ian, replaced

Nursing home drama? Not this time!

“We are taking our cancer services that we developed in Fort Myers and providing those services in Bonita Springs so the expertise we have here will also be available there in their community. It makes it relevant because when you are going through cancer treatment you don’t feel good, it’s brutal and you are nauseous, and to have a cancer center that is just a few miles from your home makes you feel a lot better.”

The project is costing just a little less than $11 million, and Roh said every bit raised helps.

“This will generate philanthropy that will help with costs,” he said about the Dahl event. “The community supports us very strongly.”

The Dahls hope those that come to the fundraising event will enjoy the holiday house as much as they do.

“People don’t really understand how fun it is until they get here,” Maddie said.

It’s a lot of work putting up such elaborate holiday décor. She hires a crew of three that spends more than three weeks taking each piece from boxes and painstakingly placing it in the proper spot. She estimates that there are 30,000 to 40,000 pieces. It takes one week to dismantle the displays. The Dahls began these elaborate exhibitions 18 years ago and have added to the collection each year. Maddie scours local shops and the Internet to find the perfect pieces. New this year is an under the sea themed Santa. Even with all the elaborate decorations, Maddie says her favorite is a small tree with family photos and her daughter’s handprint. Theo’s favorite decoration is the Santa right outside the door.

Maddie almost canceled the party after Hurricane Ian slammed into the area. She didn’t know if it would be appropriate to celebrate this way with all the devastation. Then she realized it might be just what people need.

“We never had a hurricane that has taken people’s homes as bad as this time,” she explained. “I thought we should cancel, but if this makes one person happy that has to go back to their house with devastation, then this just makes it a little bit happier. It’s whimsy, it’s magical, it makes you happy.”

Tickets are $400 each and there are about 20 tickets still available.

You can get tickets at https://leehealthfoundation.org/event/willy-wonka-holiday-party/ or contact the Lee Health Foundation at 239-343-6950.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Naples holiday wonderland: Dahl house charity event to fight cancer