CLC Scholar starts nonprofit funded by original Christmas light show

Shane Johnson is wrapped up in some of the more than 25,000 lights he used in his original holiday lights show, "Lights on Jupiter." Photo by Ben Krain.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock freshman is continuing his tradition of helping his community by starting a nonprofit organization that will be funded by his annual “out of this world” Christmas light show. 

Shane Johnson is a 2018 graduate of eStem Public Charter Schools High School who is studying computer science at UA Little Rock. The nonprofit organization will be funded from donations from his holiday light show, “Lights on Jupiter.”

“I’m 18 and I have a wonderful job at State Farm,” Johnson said. “I am very passionate about my nonprofit I am starting in conjunction with my project, a musical Christmas lights display. I have more than 25,000 lights at three houses on Jupiter Drive in Mabelvale.”

The holiday light show begins Saturday, Dec. 1, and ends Monday, Dec. 31. It runs from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30-10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Johnson is planning to use the donations from this year’s upcoming light show to buy Christmas presents for nursing home residents at Briarwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Little Rock to ensure that no resident is left out of the holiday season.

The light show spans the home of his parents, Donna and Gary Johnson, as well as two neighbors on Jupiter Drive in Mabelvale. The show also features a jukebox, where visitors can choose light shows programmed to 16 different songs.

Johnson first stepped into the computerized light show industry when he was 13.

“I saw a YouTube video of Richard Holdman in Ohio who did a giant Christmas light show, and I was fascinated by the way it works,” Johnson said. “After six months of YouTube tutorials and teaching myself how to program these lights, I did a Halloween show that I think five people saw. Then we moved to Christmas. We started out with just one controller and now we are up to 15.”

On the nights of the light show, Johnson loves to greet his visitors, directs cars with a traffic wand, and hands out candy canes to his guests.

“I love talking to people. One reason I do this is to give back to the community, but I love just hearing the responses of people,” he said. “I really do this out of pure love. Just seeing the reactions and joys of these people is worth it. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, if I can bring happiness and joy to someone, then it’s worth it.”

Over the past three years, Johnson has accepted donations to “Lights on Jupiter” for the Make-a-Wish Mid-South. Altogether, Johnson has donated more than $4,500 to the nonprofit organization, an achievement that was highlighted in June when Johnson was awarded a $2,500 McLarty Drives Education Scholarship from McLarty Automotive Group.

Johnson was nominated by one his favorite teachers from eStem, Joshua Hayes, facilitator of the school’s EAST Program, which Johnson was actively involved in during high school.

“He helps other students,” Hayes said. “He sets the tone. He works hard. He’s a diligent worker, but he’s also overall a nice person. Whatever he does, he’s going to excel. He’s going to be special because he’s just that type of person.”

In addition to this scholarship, Johnson is a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps at UA Little Rock. Every year, approximately 225 first-time freshmen are admitted to the program, which is designed for high school leaders active in extracurricular activities and their community. CLC Scholars receive a financial package totaling up to $32,000 through a four-year renewable scholarship.

“I feel like it was a very easy transition being on the eStem campus and already seeing what UA Little Rock has to offer,” he said. “I think it is centrally located, that there are things all around us to do, and it’s close to home. To me, it’s a very beautiful campus and people are very nice and the staff is wonderful.”

Johnson said the scholarships will help him graduate from college debt-free. As a first-generation college student, Johnson is dedicated to doing his best in college and dreams of one day working at a technology giant like Microsoft or Google.

In 2019, the show will move to Marche, five miles outside Maumelle, where a relative has offered the use of his 80 acres of land as a new home for the show.

For more information, including driving directions, visit the Lights on Jupiter website or call 501-725-0003.

In the upper right photo, Shane Johnson is wrapped up in some of the more than 25,000 lights he used in his original holiday lights show, “Lights on Jupiter.” Photo by Ben Krain.

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