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Massive Denver Christmas display is targeted by thieves

9:46 PM, Dec 24, 2012   |    comments
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Someone broke into Herman Dinges' garage and stole donations intended for the Children's Hospital of Denver.

The Grinch responsible for the theft has not stolen Dinges' Christmas spirit.

He lives near the corner of 1st Avenue and South Zenobia Street in the southwest Denver and has stood outside every Christmas Eve for the past five decades.

Dinge is dimming his display lights for good on New Year's Day, saying it's time to call it quits.

This is supposed to be a time to celebrate 50 years of lighting up peoples' lives, but a thief stole some of that holiday cheer.

50 years can bring a lot of milestones.

The first Christmas display was put up in 1962.

Dinge played the polka on the Lawrence Welk show in 1972.

2011 was the year Herman Dinges and Lyla Bennet fell in love, at a polka concert in Nebraska, nearly a decade after Dinges' wife passed away.

2012 brought a milestone they never expected.

"It's really sad. It's heartbreaking," Dinge said.

On Saturday night, someone broke into Dinges' garage and took the money that was supposed to help children, along with Dinges' 55 inch flat screen television.

Each year, Dinges asks the people who stop by to donate what they can to help the Children's Hospital of Denver.

Tens of thousands of dollars helped light up many young lives over the years.

"Times have changed. The last 3 years or 4 have not been so hot," Dinge said.

Dinges says his southwest Denver neighborhood isn't what it used to be.

"Last year they got four reindeers out of my yard but that's not a big deal," Dinge said.

Putting up an estimated 150,000 lights takes longer than it used to.

"I'll be 84. I'm not a spring chicken anymore. I think I am but it doesn't work," Dinge said.

Many are disappointed to learn this is the final year of this megawatt merry display.

"Some of them walk off crying when we tell them it's our last year," Bennett said.

So far this season, Dinges has raised more than $6,000 in checks.

He's hoping he can make up for the stolen cash donations between now and Jan. 1, when all of the lights come down for good.

"We're going to keep on going. And nobody's going to stop us from Christmas," Dinge said.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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