A miniature village appeared overnight inside Chapel Hills Mall last week. This sugary housing development is complete with gumdrop sidewalks, open-concept floor plans, edible furnishings, candy windows and, of course, gingerbread.

Culinary arts students from Pikes Peak Community College designed and constructed the gingerbread homes over the course of four weeks. The students, working in teams of three, worked tediously on shingling roofs with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and making Christmas trees with green frosting. The village can be found inside the Chapel Hills Mall just outside the Dillard’s entrance.

One gingerbread house has a fireplace with a candy deer head mounted above the hearth. Another house used melted Jolly Ranchers to create stained glass windows. As a finishing touch, powdered sugar was sprinkled over the village.

The gingerbread homes will be sold in a silent auction. The homes typically sell anywhere from $200 to as high as $600. The proceeds will go toward funding a new Ronald McDonald House in Colorado Springs.

Families often travel long distances to unfamiliar cities when seeking medical care for their sick children. Ronald McDonald Houses give those parents a temporary place to live while their children are being treated.

There are 365 Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the world. The total cost for building the new Ronald McDonald House in Colorado Springs will be around $10 million.

Sam Rush-Walton, development director for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado, said the house will open near a pediatric hospital being built in the Briargate area. The Ronald McDonald House and the hospital will open at the same time. Rush-Walton said this will give parents a convenient way to live close to their sick children.

“Our Ronald McDonald Houses keep families close so that kids aren’t alone in a scary environment during a scary time,” Rush-Walton said. “They get to have their families with them. Having a loving, supporting family nearby can be as powerful as the most powerful prescribed drug.”

This marks the eighth annual gingerbread village auction. The plan was originally to build one massive gingerbread house, but it was eventually decided that a village made from miniature gingerbread houses would be more practical.

Chef Michael Paradiso, the culinary department chair at Pikes Peak Community College, has made several runs to the store over the last month to buy candy for his students to design their gingerbread houses. Paradiso said that the students see this fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities as a great way to give back to people during the holidays.

“It’s about helping the families,” he said. “The students know it’s not just about building gingerbread houses but doing something that gives back to the community.”

The fragile gingerbread houses required special transport to make it to the mall in one piece. A convoy of slow-moving cars with their hazard lights flashing carried the precious gingerbread houses down Interstate 25.

“Thank god all the pot holes were fixed,” said culinary arts student Cindi Graham, who built one of the gingerbread houses. “It’s been a labor of love.”

Paradiso said all students will be getting A’s on their gingerbread houses. The auction will last until Sunday.

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