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Special Christmas cheer arrives at home of woman battling cancer

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POCATELLO — Nine years ago, Doug Briscoe received word that a member of his church had fallen on hard times.

Both of the man’s children had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Asked what they wanted for Christmas, the children said that their wish was for a decorated home.

So Briscoe gathered a group of volunteers, decorations and equipment, and lit up the children’s Christmas. Every year since then, Briscoe has rallied a growing group of volunteers to do the same — each year, at a different home.

“I don’t know what we call it,” he told EastIdahoNews.com. “We’re just spreading a little Christmas cheer.”

On Monday night, dozens of neighbors, friends, family and even interested strangers, converged on a home in Chubbuck. They had decorations, generators, floodlights and more – all of which were donated to the effort.

In less than two hours, the mass of people departed a well-lit home.

A Chubbuck home decorated by volunteers
A Chubbuck home decorated by volunteers. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

“It does (take a lot of work), but it’s really fun,” Briscoe said. “It’s never too much work – it’s more fun than work.”

This year was a little different for Briscoe and his “group of elves” as they decorated two homes.

Briscoe, who explained that there is no clear selection process, had already picked a home for decoration when he received notice of a second home in need of cheer.

Terra Moon, the daughter of Darla and Bert Hulse, was speaking with a friend about her mother’s recent diagnosis. Darla was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer last year and recently discovered the cancer had moved to her cervix — an incredibly rare jump, her doctor told her.

Bert and Darla Hulse
Bert and Darla Hulse | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

Moon told her friend that she wanted to do something special for her mother. The friend asked her to hold on and a short time later Briscoe was onboard for a second home.

“It gave me so much hope,” Moon told EastIdahoNews.com. “It really just made me believe in the spirit of the season.”

As Bert explained, when Briscoe discovered that Darla, a consummate giver, was at the other end of the request his response was, “for her, we’ll do that one also.”

“It’s even more special,” Bert added. “That’s a lot of resources to have on one house, let alone two houses.”

It was meant to surprise Darla, who rushed home from work Monday night expecting to have dinner with her daughter and grandchildren. Instead, she saw a mass of humanity loitering in front of her house.

“It was a surprise,” Darla said. “I hurry to get off work and I drive down the street and it’s glowing, there’s all these flood lights and I thought, ‘Holy cow Terra, what did you do?’”

It was fitting that Darla have her night brightened, as it seems everyone has had their life brightened by her.

Darla’s co-worker at the Boy Scouts of America, Terry Hoopes, described her as a ray of light who is an inspiration.

“She has the most positive attitude,” Moon said. “Everybody has got something going on in their life, but when we see her, having a smile on her face, it just makes us all want to try harder and be better.”

So, when so many showed up to bring some cheer, Moon was awe-struck.

“It was unbelievable, watching the cars just continue to pile in,” she said. … “It was really inspiring, it helped me have a little bit more excitement for Christmas this year.”

Dozens volunteer time and equipment to decorate a Chubbuck home
Dozens volunteer time, decorations and equipment to decorate a home in Chubbuck. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

The decorating also comes with cleanup, Bert explained. As the group was finishing its work, he was preparing to ask how removing the decorations was going to work when he was interrupted.

Don’t worry, he was told, we’ll be back to take everything down next year.

A relief, no doubt. As Darla explained, her doctor has provided no timetable, just that the palliative care she is currently receiving could potentially keep what is now stage 4 cancer at bay.

“They’re giving as much quality of life as I can have,” she said. “We’re hoping it’s long-term and we hope this is going to last for a while.”

It seems unclear how the word “believe” made its way into the decorations on the Hulse lawn. Terra seems to think Darla chose it, while Darla and Bert thought it was Terra who made the request.

But Bert finds it fitting.

“We believe that we’ll be fine and we hope that we will have some time,” he said.

His wife agrees.

“I always have been big on ‘we believe.’ We believe in God, we believe in the magic of Christmas. And all of that stuff coming together, that was a perfect word.”

Dozens gather at a home in Chubbuck to decorate a house
Dozens of volunteers gather in Chubbuck to decorate a home. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com

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