Nolan and Katie Wiersma and their three children, members of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa, created a 14-foot lighthouse tower from snow in their front yard in early January. They used their creation as a way of raising money for Living Water Wells, a cause promoted by the church’s Sunday school last fall, Nolan Wiersma said. He started the family on this snow-sculpting adventure four years ago when he, then a teacher, and his kids were off school for several days in a row.
“We just needed to get outside, so we headed out with the goal of building an igloo. It was a success, and our children loved it, so when the next winter rolled around, we built a second igloo and added to it a little bit. It was a very similar structure, but we added steps and a sledding hill off the back of it. After that, we were kind of hooked and we've attempted to make them "bigger and better" every year,” Wiersma said. He credits Katie with turning the attention this year into a fundraiser.
“It all started with a simple facebook post by my wife,” Wiersma said. “Then, it just kind of took off from there. Other people reposted it, and before long we had different news outlets contacting us and sharing the same post on their social media pages.”
He said seven news outlets (including The Banner) had contacted them and they didn’t count the number of social media re-posts. Even the United States Lighthouse Society posted about the tower on its Facebook page.
Donations made through Faith CRC and given directly to the Wiersmas for Living Water Wells totalled $2,980.74 as of January 20. That doesn’t include money donated to Living Water through its website.
Nolan Wiersma said they started building this year’s project Dec. 31 and had it completed Jan. 8. Unfortunately, it’s no longer standing. Just three days after completing it, four consecutive days of warm weather brought the tower down.
In her Facebook post encouraging donations, Katie Wiersmsa said they were partially inspired by clean water fundraising efforts by Minnesota snow sculpting brothers the Bartz Brothers. “So here we are thinking what a PERFECT opportunity to tie our creative use of 'water' to hopefully BLESS others in Zambia with clean water too!”
Nolan Wiersma said as long as the weather cooperates, he’s pretty confident they’ll build another structure next year. He’s just not sure what it will be. “Each year we've tried to make our forts a little more intricate, and my wife and I have also considered how to be intentional in using it to be a teaching tool for our children as well as a way to spread light in our community. So, we'll need a little time to come up with what that might be next year.”
The Wiersma children are 10, 9, and 5. Nolan Wiersma now works as the director of youth ministries at Faith CRC.
Wiersma Family Snow-sculpting Facts:
- They used their heated garage to bring hauled-in snow up to a good packing temperature.
- They packed bins of snow to make solid bricks that could be trimmed for building.
- Some parts of the tower were made in special molds.
- Nolan said “I have always enjoyed the building trades and have done some of that in the past, so I think that's been somewhat helpful as we've gone through the construction process.”
- Estimated build time for the lighthouse: 100 hours
- Estimated volume of snow: 200 Rubbermaid bins
- 5-minute video story from ReFrame Ministries' Kids in Action