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Port Coquitlam teen ponders penguin pilfered from holiday display he built with his grandpa

Gabriel Hyvarinen has been working on the annual holiday display with his grandpa for eight years
Gabriel Hyvarinen's inflatable penguin, right, in its natural habitat in front of the family home on Paula Place before it was pilfered last Saturday.

A Christmas display that’s brought together two generations of a Port Coquitlam family has been robbed of a beloved inflatable penguin.

Gabriel Hyvarinen has been helping his grandfather, Digby Bentzen, assemble and erect the display for eight years.

The 15-year-old said the annual task has helped them forge a “special bond” as they drive around town looking at other displays for ideas, then set up the thousands of lights and nine inflatable characters in front of their townhouse on Paula Place.

Gabriel said, every year, he and his grandpa try to craft a new element to add to the display. Two years ago, they built a giant “Merry Christmas” sign using chicken wire, LED lights and “a lot” of zip ties. Last year, they designed, cut out and painted a Santa’s sleigh that looks like it’s hovering in the air.

Other parts of the display are the fruits of Gabriel’s industriousness.

Some money he earned by helping his aunt paint a neighbours house went toward the acquisition of three new inflatable characters. Others were purchased with Christmas and birthday money, usually at season-end sales. And when a family friend donated a pair of reindeer, he brought them to life by adding new lights.

In fact, the display has grown into a neighbour’s yard — with their permission of course.

“Every year we make little changes to make it more appealing,” Gabriel said, adding donations left in a collection box he’s going to erect as part of the display will go to SHARE Family and Community Services.

But last Saturday (Nov. 26), Gabriel said a little of his holiday spirit was deflated when his grandpa and grandma returned home from an outing to find the penguin, that’s been part of the display since 2016, missing.

At first, he said, they thought the inflatable character had been unmoored by a gust of wind. But it’s unlikely Mother Nature would have the dexterity to unplug it from its socket, nor lift away so cleanly.

Gabriel said the family walked around the neighbourhood hoping to find the pilfered penguin, with no luck.

“It’s really disappointing that someone would steal it,” he said.

Gabriel said the penguin is about three-and-a-half feet tall. It has blue wings, yellow feet and it’s wearing a red scarf and red touque. He hopes making his family’s loss public might help bring it home, no questions asked.

“It brings me joy to watch the young kids walk by in amazement and parents stop to take their pictures with the decorations,” he said, adding working with his grandpa has helped him learn a lot about working with electricity as well as designing and planning the display.

If you’ve spotted the pilfered penguin from Paula Place, call 604-552-4808.