Lifestyle & Human Interest

Volunteers Gather to Help Man Keep Christmas Tradition Going After Tragedy Strikes


This year was a tough year for the Marks’ of Des Moines, Iowa. Dale and Julie, grandparents, were hit with COVID-19 in September.

Julie got well again, but Dale had a rough go of it. He suffered two strokes and a heart attack, and now requires oxygen and has a difficult time getting around.

“He had a stroke on the left and right side of the brain … he only lost the ability to move on the right side for about three days,” Julie told Fox News.

As time passed, Dale got stronger — but as Christmas steadily approached, it looked like the couple was going to have to relinquish one of their most cherished and time-honored Christmas traditions.

The Beaverdale neighborhood they live in is known for going all out with the decorations every year and has done so for decades. Julie said that “driving into this neighborhood is like driving into a storybook.”

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“There is bumper-to-bumper [cars] on the big nights … waiting to get in here,” she continued. “They were coming around … in busses and limos just to see the lights.”

Last year, the couple was able to use their decorating efforts to raise $7,500 and collect over 1,500 pounds of food for the Food Bank of Iowa, according to CNN.

But Dale’s condition meant this year wasn’t looking promising.

“Dale decorates and puts all the lights up — I do the small things, he does the big things — and I knew there was no way that I could do it,” Julie explained. “He started talking about it and I was pretty sure it was impossible.”

“I had resolved that it probably wasn’t going to happen because there was no way I could put these lights up alone,” she added to Fox News. “But, you know, it is a tradition and people count on it.”

Local Bob Coffey grew up appreciating the lights on the famed street, and when he heard about the Marks’ conundrum, he realized he could do something about it. The owner of Bob the Builder LLC, Coffey offered to handle the manpower with Dale at the helm, directing.

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Five people, 10,000 lights and three hours later, the grandparents were back in business. And the result is something to behold.

“It lights up the whole neighborhood,” Coffey said. “Just that one house.”

“When we got done, I just told him to have a great night and to take care of himself. And he cried. I cried … It was pretty awesome.”

The couple is ecstatic that their yard is once again a holiday beacon, not least of all because it means that this year they’ll be able to hold a food bank drive again.

“Nothing we have, we believe, is ours,” Julie said. “So if we can love on other people and raise money and food for the food bank, that’s what we’re gonna do every year until we can’t.”

She also posted photos of the lights and Dale out on the porch, with the caption, “Food Bank drive lights 2021! Dale got to sit out and watch the lights going up!”

Dale expressed his own gratitude for everyone involved in their very own Christmas miracle.

“A big shout out to all the neighbors that helped clean up the yard with Chris Nealy, Bob the Builder and his crew putting up lights, Shaun Conn the the lights on the house and big tree,” he commented on his wife’s post.

“Thank you to the Food Bank of Iowa for your support and the residents of Vintage Park here in Beaverdale for helping to collect food for the drive. And definitely to Laura Terrell KCCI and crew for coming out to support us!

“We are praying miracles to happen so that will be able to feed many, many more people this year! God Bless!”

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