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Neighbors Decorate House for Grieving Kids

"My husband Jerry was a ginormous presence. Such a happy guy," said his wife, Lori Belum. "He did everything for us. And he just loved Christmas."

The Belums were married in 2010 and had two sons, Benjamin and Sammy. Both boys love playing flag football and their dad loved supporting them even more. But the day after Thanksgiving, right after Benjamin scored the game-winning touchdown, an unbelievable tragedy occurred on the sidelines. Lori said, “Jerry just collapsed ... and that was it. A ruptured aortic dissection is what they called it and it's pretty much instant death."

In many ways, the Belums don't know how to move on. But they did know one way of honoring their beloved husband and father. The Belums took a trip to New York City to see Rockefeller Plaza, something they had planned to do with Jerry just a week prior to his death. And while they were away, neighbors got to work planning something special.

Neighbor Tracy Clancy said, “I think I labeled it 'Project Illumination' in the group chat.” The Belum's exterior Christmas decorations had already been unpacked. Jerry was planning to decorate the day he died. Then the neighbors huddled up to make sure his intentions came to light.

One neighbor said, “We wanted to do what Jerry had previously done to the house. But a little different because you know it can't be the exact same.” So, using a photograph of Jerry's decorations last year, the neighbors completed the house to near-perfection.

And upon returning home from New York, the Belums were shocked. "Who did it?" "Did Santa's helpers come by?" "They might have!" Those voices echoed from the backseat of the car in a video taken upon arrival. And the Belums now have a little more light to guide their way through life without Jerry.

Lori said, “We'll be together on Christmas and talk about him and get through it. It'll be hard, but we'll do it and we'll laugh and we'll cry and you know, we'll be okay. Right?”

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