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Man has spelled out 'Hi Kevin' in holiday lights for 20 years in sweet tribute to late teen neighbor

Mike Witmer's holiday lights honor Kevin who passed away from cancer in 2010.

Man has spelled out 'Hi Kevin' in holiday lights for 20 years in sweet tribute to late teen neighbor
Cover Image Source: Mike Witmer

The "Hi Kevin" sign in Mike Witmer's holiday light display has a special significance. Every year the Maryland native pays tribute to his beloved young neighbor who died of cancer. Although passersby are sometimes confused by his lights, for Witmer, it's been an important tradition since 2002—when his 11-year-old neighbor, Kevin, was diagnosed with cancer.

"He was such a cool kid," Witmer told The Washington Post. "He could talk to anybody. Even with his cancer, he would never let it get to him or get him down." The tradition started in 2002 when Kevin was diagnosed at the age of 11. That year, Witmer spelled out "Get Well Kevin" in lights to raise the youngster's spirits. After that, it became "Hi Kevin."

Although Kevin’s cancer eventually went into remission, he tragically passed away in 2010 after his cancer came back "harder and stronger" once he'd completed his freshman year at the University of Maryland. "I continued the tribute," Witmer said. “I was just trying to be a nice dad in the neighborhood. It was such a small gesture."


But that small gesture meant the world to Kevin and his family. Kevin's mother told Witmer that the young boy loved the display so much that he had asked if it would be done every year. "I was like, 'how could I not?'" Witmer recalled. "We became friends,” he added of Kevin's family. "They're just the nicest people in the world." Whitmer even made a game of it and would sometimes paint "Hi Kevin" on scrap pieces of wood and hide them around his Christmas display. Kevin would then have to look for the special pieces with his name on it. It was just a fun game between the two of them.


Sharing his story on Facebook, the 56-year-old wrote: "At one point I had a working Ferris wheel, I put the Hi on one chair and the Kevin on another, so it wasn’t always visible. That year the family pulls up and he didn't see his name, I was told he got out of the car and was like 'HEY….?' About that time the Ferris wheel came back around and he saw his name, he smiled and got back into the family's car. Kevin had just finished his freshman year at the University of Maryland when his cancer came back hard and he passed in June 2010."


Witmer was asked to speak at the funeral when the teen passed away. He mentioned that they had a special connection and that he loved "putting Kevin’s name in my light display."

"I told everyone to come by that year and the 'Hi Kevin' would be bigger so he can see it from heaven. I don't know what's hardest to believe, that he's been gone for 12 years or that I've been including his name in my display for 20 years now. Either way, I love sharing this story, and I hope it makes you feel good too. A few years back an old high school friend reached out to me and asked me about the "Hi Kevin." I told him the above story and he proceeded to tell me that he had a loved one named Kevin that was killed by a drunk driver and asked if it would be okay if he and his family took my "Hi Kevin" to be saying hi to their Kevin, of course, I said YES! Sometimes it's the smallest gestures that end up meaning the most," Witmer shared.


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