Bright Lights, Big Impact
A passion for creating dazzling Christmas light displays has turned into a career path and a means for Jordan Maywald ’22 to become a major donor to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which fulfills life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
Maywald, who will graduate with a construction science degree this month, plans to combine his education and lighting display prowess to pursue two lofty goals: launch a business designing, building and installing holiday displays and become a million-dollar wish grantor for Make-A-Wish. With customers already lining up for his services, and with the $200,000 he has already raised that have made numerous children’s wishes a reality, he is on track to achieve both.
Each year, the giant, sparkling display Maywald creates at his family’s home and 3.5 acre property just west of Austin draws 15,000-plus visitors, many of whom make on-site donations to support Maywald’s efforts to fund wishes. The display has also been featured prominently in local TV and newspapers.
The first wish Maywald’s display helped grant was all-expense paid trip for a young boy with a brain tumor whose wish was a trip to Disney World. “He and his family had the time of their lives, and they even sent us pictures,” Maywald said. “They came to our holiday display the next year and I was able to meet them. It’s a great story because we learned that he is now cancer free and doing well.”
Maywald’s path to becoming a Christmas display maestro began at a young age.
As a six-year-old, Maywald began helping his dad decorate their family home and 3.5 acres for Christmas. After one season he was hooked. By age nine, his father turned the holiday decorating enterprise over to him, which Maywald admits might have been a mistake, as the display has grown exponentially each year.
“I learned a lot about design, what building techniques work best and which products are most reliable,” Maywald said. “I wanted to make each display bigger and better year after year.”
He plans to use this knowledge and experience to meet the holiday decorating needs of residential and commercial customers, and eventually become a distributor for high-quality products that families and other installers can use on their creations.
Maywald said much of what he learned in his construction science classes will be invaluable to the success of his new venture, including project management, budgeting and construction techniques.
“My internship provided field experience in working as a team, quality assurance and negotiating punch list items,” he said. “I also gained a vision for how the whole constructing process works and about various issues that can delay projects or increase costs.”
In 2019, Maywald’s construction skills were put to the test.
“I entered and won a nationally televised competition called The Great Christmas Light Fight. I designed and built several large-scale decorations with the idea that everything is bigger in Texas,” he said. “I am the youngest winner ever and took home a big trophy and $50,000.”
His original creations included a 20-foot lighthouse, giant snowman, a life-size gingerbread house, sleigh and more. Much of his cash award was invested in his annual holiday display — the most notable addition was a 17 foot-tall fiberglass Santa Claus.
Maywald spends about six months planning, building and installing the lighting and decorations.
“The reactions of the people who see our lights make all the work worthwhile,” Maywald said. “But, when I was in junior high school, we realized that this is also an opportunity to give back to the community, so we partnered with Make-a-Wish.” The first year, Maywald raised $250, but he had higher hopes.
“The following year I knew I wanted to raise enough money to grant an entire wish,” Maywald said. “At the time fulfilling a wish cost $5,000. My senior year of high school we raised just over $5,000 and I was able to grant my first wish.” Since then, Maywald’s has funded 27 wishes for critically ill children in Central Texas.
Maywald’s display has blossomed into one of the largest fundraisers for Make-a-Wish’s Central and South Texas chapter, said Jill Skinner, the chapter’s major gifts officer.
“This past December he raised $80,000 to bring much-needed strength to children facing the challenges of a critical illness,” Skinner said. “I’ve never met anyone so dedicated and determined to help so many. Jordan and his amazing family stand outside every night in the month of December to talk to visitors about the impact of a wish and collect donations. They show our community what the holidays are all about: caring, compassion and kindness.”
Maywald’s time as an undergraduate student at Texas A&M was focused on his studies and passion for spreading holiday cheer and granting wishes. His accomplishments on all fronts makes him a shining example of the Aggie Spirit and living our Aggie Core Values.