Number of Participants: 70
Hours Donated: 2
Value of Time Served: $1,183
Event Type: Civic & Community
Date: November 15, 2021
LEOMINSTER — Over three dozen energetic and enthusiastic Leominster Blue Devils football players and their coaches gathered after school Monday afternoon at Tyler Yalian’s family home to help him set up part of his large-scale Christmas on Tolman holiday display, which officially opens for the season at 5 p.m. Nov. 26.
“We accomplished so much in such a short time,” Yalian said. “We really appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”
After assisting Yalian with securing over 40 colorful, festive inflatables in just under an hour, the rambunctious teenagers devoured four giant party-size pizzas within minutes along with several liters of soda that the Yalian family provided for them as a thank you.
“We try to make this happen as much as possible and are always looking for ways to come out and support the community, any way we can give back,” said Blue Devils Head Coach Devin Gates. “This is for the kids; we are happy to come out and help.”
The beginnings of the collaboration happened in 2019, when Yalian reached out to the football program to ask for help. Two years later, due to pandemic delays, they were finally able to make it happen. Gates and others, including coach Hunter Paupaw and the players, said they would be glad to come back every year and pitch in to help set up the display.
“The community always comes out to cheer us on and support us, we are happy to do the same,” Gates said of answering Yalian’s call for help.
Yalian said that while they are “still way behind schedule,” the football team’s help was much appreciated.
“It did give us a huge boost that at the minimum would have taken us several hours,” he said. “It helped us position a ton of the inflatables and secured several … something that would take several days to complete, they assisted us to get it done in a matter of a few hours.”
Yalian, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Monday, has been putting up the popular holiday display in the side yard of his family’s 83 Tolman Ave. home for seven years and a Halloween display for eight years, as long as he has lived in Leominster.
Christmas on Tolman is a family affair, with Yalian’s father, mother, sister and 2-year-old niece all pitching in to make it a success. Yalian said he currently has 150 holiday-themed inflatables slated for this year, up from 130 last year, and that he and his father travel down to Pennsylvania every year to scour antique shops and flea markets in search of inflatables, plastic blow molds and other items to bring home for the displays.
Thousands of people come from near and far to visit the displays each year, which Yalian calls “a labor of love.”
Over the years they have collected 4,000 new, unwrapped toys donated by visitors for Toys for Tots, which are given to children and families in need.
In addition, any monetary donations made to the recently minted 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization they founded, Christmas on Tolman, go directly to helping people in the local community.
Yalian said all display-related expenses, including purchasing inflatables, decorations and the 90 pumpkins at a cost of $500 they gave out to children at the Halloween display, comes out of their pockets and that none of the monetary donations are used for the displays.
Like so many other things, the display was not open last year due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming kids and families alike back to our home after a year off due to the pandemic,” Yalian said.
He posted a Helen Keller quote on the Christmas on Tolman Facebook page following the football team’s visit, “Alone, we can do so little; Together, we can do so much,” which Yalian said sums up what Christmas on Tolman is all about — bringing the community together.
For more information, follow Christmas on Tolman on Facebook.