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Beautiful Bright Lights Shine For Dying Boy

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CNN: On a crisp Halloween night, icicle lights and Santa Clauses mingled with ghosts and jack-o'-lanterns in a Washington, Illinois, neighborhood.

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The community is helping a family squeeze in a little extra holiday cheer with their young son.

Doctors say 2-year-old Dax Locke is losing his fight with acute myeloid leukemia and may only have weeks to live, so parents Julie and Austin Locke put Christmas lights up outside their home for the little boy, who loves glowing things. Dax opens presents each day under a tree that's already been up for several weeks.

"We don't have much time left with Dax, don't know if he will make it to Christmas, so we wanted to have Christmas early," Julie Locke told local news station WMBD.

Neighbor and friend Trish Hurtgen says she and her husband were inspired by the family's efforts, so they put up their own lights and encouraged neighbors to do the same. Soon, the entire block was lit up with Christmas lights. They also planned a special surprise for the family.

While the Lockes traveled to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium for a special trip with Dax, the neighborhood banded together to decorate a huge tree in the family's yard so the Lockes could be delighted when they returned just after Halloween.

From there, she and other neighbors have helped encourage people to show silent support for the family by putting up Christmas lights at home and around the community. The effort, called Decorate for Dax, has its own Web site with space for people everywhere to send pictures and see others' displays.

Hurtgen calls the Lockes a "family of courage" that she found inspirational, and she wanted to help if she could.

"This is a family who stayed united and formed a team to help Dax," Hurtgen said. "They gave everything they had. We're trying to do the same thing."

Dax has spent past holidays at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, but this year, he's at home. Save for receiving palliative radiation to improve his quality of life, he is off cancer treatments.

Hurtgen says Dax enjoys going for car rides and seeing the lights on around him. The family plans to make a book out of photos that people send so Dax will be able to see all the lights for Christmas if he's too sick to go outside.

iReporter Cindy Miller lives in the area and got involved in local neighborhood decorating projects. She posted a video on CNN iReport to raise awareness of the Decorate for Dax project. She narrated a drive through Dax's neighborhood shortly after Halloween, and many houses were illuminated.

Take a cruise through Dax's brightened neighborhood

During one project, locals put up lights and luminarias at a local park. Miller sent photos and video of the illuminated areas she spotted, including a red, white and green sign with Dax's name in bright lights.

Miller said her heart was warmed by all the work the community put into the decorations, and she was overjoyed to see Dax out with the family amid all the people helping to decorate.

"I sobbed like a baby, but was overjoyed at the show of support for this family who may not have their baby here at Christmastime. It's unusual to see Christmas lights up so early, but this year, there's a good reason."

Hurtgen says she's been surprised by how Decorate for Dax has taken off. Submissions have come from all over the United States and in far-flung countries like Australia and Germany.

"I don't know how the word is getting out," Hurtgen said.

Hurtgen added that one woman even wrote in to say that her husband, stationed in Afghanistan, was working with fellow troops to photograph a lights display for Dax.

Send photos of decorations to CNN

Some of the colorful and bright displays she's seen include big signs with Dax's name on them and holiday-themed shapes and figurines. Other displays are more humble, like a message from another boy in a hospital and a makeshift tribute inside a tiny apartment.



"It doesn't have to be big, just your way of showing support."

The Lockes aren't the only family hosting an early Christmas. Diana Biorkman of South Lyon, Michigan, told CNN affiliate WDIV that her son, Noah, is dying of a Stage 4 neuroblastoma, which is a type of cancer that forms in nerve tissue.

Noah loves opening mail, so the family asked people to send him a Christmas card. Word got out, and he started getting gifts and cards from strangers. The family recently picked up a carload of mail and toys. Detroit Tigers baseball player Brandon Inge even sent a card and stopped over for a "play date" that included building a snow fort with Noah.

Hurtgen says the silent show of support works well for their community because Dax needs his rest and the family needs their privacy.

Perhaps, she said, people will see this odd display of early lights and wonder what is going on. Maybe they'll also pause for a moment to think about Dax and about what they can do to help. The family is asking people to make donations to St. Jude.

"That's what Christmas is about, giving and not needing to get in return."

Everyone is holding out hopes Dax will make it to Christmas.

"Christmas would be a miracle. We're praying for a big miracle."

Read more hot stories Moms Are Talking About.


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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
immigration advice  February 10, 2011, 2:46 PM

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