Special Christmas cheer arrives at home of woman battling cancer

POCATELLO — Nine years ago, Doug Briscoe learned that a member of his church was having a hard time.

Muscular dystrophy was diagnosed in both of the man’s children. When asked what they wanted for Christmas, the children said they wanted a decorated house.

So Briscoe gathered a group of volunteers, decorations and equipment, and lit up Christmas for the kids. Since then, Briscoe has gathered a growing group of volunteers each year to do the same – in a different house each year.

“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 gathered at a house in Chubbuck. They had decorations, generators, floodlights and more – all of which were donated to the effort.

In less than two hours, the masses of people left a well-lit house.

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

“It’s (requires 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 houses.

Briscoe, explaining that there is no clear selection process, had already picked a home for decoration when he received word of a second home that needed cheers.

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

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 hang in there and a short time later Briscoe was on board for a second home.

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

As Bert explained, when Briscoe found out that Darla, an accomplished giver, was on the other side of the request, his response was, “We’ll do that for her, too.”

“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 was rushing home from work Monday evening expecting to have dinner with her daughter and grandchildren. Instead, she saw a crowd of people hanging out in front of her house.

“It was a surprise,” Darla said. “I’m rushing to get off work and I’m driving down the street and it’s glowing, there’s all these spotlights and I was like, ‘Holy cow Terra, what have you done?'”

It was fitting that Darla lit up her night, as it seems everyone has let her brighten up their lives.

Darla’s colleague at the Boy Scouts of America, Terry Hoopes, described her as a beam of light that is an inspiration.

“She has the most positive attitude,” Moon said. “Everyone has something going on in their lives, but when we see her with a smile on her face, we all just want to try harder and get better.”

So when so many showed up to bring some cheers, Moon was awestruck.

“It was incredible to see the cars just keep coming in,” she said. … “It was really inspiring. It helped me have a little bit more excitement for Christmas this year.”

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

Decorating also includes tidying up, Bert explained. As the group finished their work, he was preparing to ask how removing the decorations would work when he was interrupted.

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

A relief, no doubt. As Darla explained, her doctor hasn’t given a timeline, just that the palliative care she’s currently receiving could potentially keep stage 4 cancer at bay.

“They give as much quality of life as I can have,” she said. “We hope it’s for the long term and we hope this will continue for a while.”

It seems unclear how the word ‘believe’ found its way into the decorations on the Hulse lawn. Terra seems to think Darla chose it, while Darla and Bert thought it was Terra making the request.

But Bert thinks it’s appropriate.

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

His wife agrees.

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

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

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