CHERRY VALLEY (WREX) — Winning an award can be an opportunity to reflect and celebrate an accomplishment, but the Benka family in Cherry Valley to it as an opportunity to pay it forward.
In 2003, the Rockford Register Star awarded the Benka's first place in the holiday decoration contest. The $150 prize could have gone towards more lights or Christmas presents, but the Benkas wanted to use that money to bless someone else.
With help from the Star, the money was split between two families at Rockford MELD. After donating the money, the Benkas came up with an idea to put out a donation box at their box for MELD when they turned on the Christmas lights each year.
That idea resulted in thousands of dollars being raised over the past few years for Rockford MELD, Special Olympics and most recently, Rock House Kids.
Even though COVID-19 caused widespread economic impact, the Benkas still helped raise over $1,300 for the charity in 2020.