Large outdoor Christmas decoration display featuring archways covered with Christmas lights, including one shaped like a tree ornament, as well as inflatable snowmen

Brentwood Celebrates the Holidays With ‘Tunnels of Joy’

Large outdoor Christmas decoration display featuring archways covered with Christmas lights, including one shaped like a tree ornament, as well as inflatable snowmen

One couple started a holiday tradition in Brentwood with “Tunnels of Joy.” In its eighth year, an estimated 100 families participated in its creation. (Juan Cebreiros / The CC Pulse)

By Juan Cebreiros

This past holiday season, the “Tunnels of Joy” were on display for the eighth year in Brentwood, this time to raise money for a high school student with cancer. 

Husband and wife Mostafa and Yvette Gardizi first put up the tunnels on La Costa Drive, starting an annual tradition for many families that has since expanded. She said the event has become bigger as the years went on.

“It’s really grown organically,” Yvette Gardizi said. “It’s become a tradition for a lot of families to come see. At first, it was just local, but now, people from all over the Bay Area come to see the tunnels. It’s a great place to come. It’s festive. The kids love it, and it’s a great place to start a family tradition.”

In response to the growth, Yvette said she’s started to hire people in the past three years to help control traffic in the neighborhood, as well as to help pick up trash left by visitors. 

In past years, local businesses have not gotten too involved with the “Tunnels of Joy” fundraising. However, this year, local food trucks were brought in to feed visitors and help raise money by donating a portion of their sales. This was also the first year performers were invited from local middle and high schools to add entertainment to the decorations. 

“It truly is just grassroots and community-oriented,” Yvette said. “We have kids with special needs that come, and they get a really great reaction when they see all the decorations.”

The name for the tunnels as well as the motivation behind the event comes from a former neighbor of the Gardizis named Joy, who died of breast cancer in 2009. Gardizi said she and neighbors who help with the “Tunnels of Joy” call themselves “the Joy makers” in her honor.

During the first couple of years, the Gardizis slowly reached out to neighbors to ask them to also put up tunnels during the holiday season. She said she believes 100 homes from the neighborhood now participate in the “Tunnels of Joy.”

“I call it positive peer pressure,” Yvette said. “Once you see your neighbor put it up, then you feel inclined to do so also.” 

Yvette said her family would always visit a specific neighborhood during the holidays while she was growing up in New Orleans, and she wanted to start something similar in Brentwood. 

Since its debut, the “Tunnels of Joy” have been raising money for people in the Brentwood area. Fundraising during the start consisted of mostly bake sales, selling hot chocolates and a donations box, according to Yvette. The goal was to give the money to a family with someone who had cancer. 

In recent years, they’ve focused on raising money for children who have cancer, according to Yvette. This year, Heritage High School senior Jeremiah Jones, who has been diagnosed with bone cancer, was announced as the pediatric cancer patient that this year’s “Tunnels of Joy” donations would go toward.

While the event started very small the first few years, Yvette said she believes the event will continue to see an uptick in community interest during the holiday season.

“Everybody needs a little bit of Joy in the holidays,” she said.

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