Decorating For Dax – A Year Later

Our Christmas decorations are up. Sure it’s a little early – and for me, it’s much earlier than I used to put them up in the past. That all changed last year…

It is hard to believe a year has passed since little Dax Locke’s story spread throughout the Peoria area and subsequently across the nation. It is equally hard to believe that nearly a year has gone by since Dax departed this Earth after just less than three short years of being here.

Friends, I will admit his story impacted me like few other things ever have in my life. I never met Dax. I’ve never met his parents. But the story of his inspirational battle with leukemia, his family’s efforts to keep him comfortable and happy during his final months, and the incredible amount of support shown by his home community, the entire Peoria area, and literally the entire country really got to me. Still does.

CNN Dax Story

It started small. Folks in the town of Washington decided to decorate for Christmas early last year because the doctors said Dax might not make it until Christmas Day. The added meaning behind this was that he really loved Christmas lights and decorations. Lights were up on people’s houses before Trick or Treaters walked the streets in that town…and it was an amazing sight to see.

But it wasn’t just in Washington. I was reading an article in the Peoria Journal Star one day and it mentioned the website where families could send photos of their Christmas decorations, and Dax’s parents would then show those to him every night in an effort to keep him smiling through his pain. They were encouraging people to do this because Dax literally only had weeks left to live and this was potentially all the Christmas he might get.

That was it for me. I pretty much lost it right there at my desk. On the verge of that happening again as I type this. The thought of this child (or any child) having just weeks or even days to live just made me instantly appreciate so many different things in my life. It really made me believe in cherishing every single moment that comes your way; a sentiment passed along by the Locke’s while they were spending their final days with their son. I can’t imagine what I would do if anything happened to my children. I love them so much. I’m crazy about my kids and I am so thankful for the times I have with them.

My heart hurts for the Locke’s and the countless number of parents (several of whom I know personally) living with the loss of a child. I offer you my prayers and thoughts here today and a hug from afar. I know they are up in Heaven, looking down on you with love. God has different plans for all of us. It sure as heck doesn’t always make sense and believe me, I can attest to this. But He has plans. He knows what He’s doing. I truly believe that.

My sons really became attached to the Dax story last year.  It made me smile when they said they wanted to put up their little tree early after hearing the story about him. From that day on they would pray for him, ask about him, talk about him. We sent him a photo after the kids put up their tree. It was almost like he was part of the family. The day he passed away, it felt like a family member passed away. Telling my children about his passing was like telling them that a family member had passed away.

I will just say Dax that your life on Earth, while short, was meaningful beyond words. In addition to instilling a renewed sense of community in people you provided a true sense of hope and meaning to countless people’s lives. For me, your story taught me to never, ever take a day for granted. I haven’t since and I don’t plan to again.

Life is precious, friends. Make the most of it. Go hug someone. Call up an old friend. Tell someone you love them. End a fight. Forgive someone. Go outside and breathe the the fresh air. Do something you’ve been putting off doing. Make a difference. Follow your dreams. Smile, laugh, cry. Live.

God bless you, Dax. Rest in peace.

…and thank you God for using this little boy’s story to inspire so many.


UPDATE: Watch Dax’s movie, The Heart of Christmas!


Had to share this

(Heard it at the church service I attended the other night.)
At the lunch line inside a parochial school…a note on the basket of apples at the beginning of the line says, ‘Take only one – God can see you.’
Toward the end of the line, a couple of students see the tray of cookies that has been set out. One says to the other, ‘Take all you want. God’s watching the apples.’

Wanted: Turkeys

Just a quick request to consider adding an extra turkey to your Thanksgiving grocery list this week. South Side Mission in Peoria is a wonderful organization which has been serving the community for more than 80 years. Every Thanksgiving, volunteers serve up thousands of meals and this year will be no different. Problem is the supply of turkeys is very low this year and it’s just a week until the big day.

Obviously the economy is less than great right now. Totally understandable that folks are tightening the ‘budget belt’ a bit. But if you can find it in your heart to help, just know that the food you provide will feed individuals and families who may not have anything at all. Heck, I’m fairly certain that wherever you live – Peoria or otherwise – a food bank or local charity in your community is probably facing a similar shortfall. Maybe you can help 🙂

Just a thought. Have a blessed day, friends.


Ever wanted to ride in a snow plow?

Well ok, your answer to that question may very well be ‘no’…but that’s alright 🙂 Take a ride anyway! Here’s a video from the Illinois Department of Transportation, illustrating the importance of giving snow plows and salt trucks room to do what they do during the winter months.


Be True to Your School

So you went to college, paid your student loans, and that’s it. Maybe you’re going to college now or perhaps you’re still paying those loans. Wherever you are on the timeline…is that the end of the story for you when it comes to your school? Just a few words to let you know it doesn’t have to be – nor should it be!

Had the opportunity to join fellow Bradley University alums at a forum on campus this evening. We were invited to give feedback about our experience on the Hilltop. During the discussion, those in attendance gave any number of examples of how their time at Bradley has benefited them in their lives today. What caught my attention though was when the responses shifted to what people are doing to give back. Not just from a financial perspective but from a service standpoint as well.

Folks, there are numerous opportunities out there for you to get involved with the institution of higher learning that served as your home for four (or five, or six, or..) years. As much as financial support helps you can certainly do your part in ways that don’t require you to dig into your wallet.

Whether it’s getting involved with an alumni affinity group, attending alumni functions, speaking to students in a classroom, participating in job fairs…the list is much longer than this…you have a chance to not only support your school with the gift of your time but also have a lot of fun in the process. From personal experience doing some of these things in recent years I can tell you it’s been great to be involved once again. My only regret is that I waited so long to do so.

As I told the group during my comments this evening, my time at Bradley will always mean a lot to me. The question I responded to asked what the school did for me professionally and personally. For starters, the skills I learned through my course work there helped me get a job shortly after I graduated. The professors were top-notch and the resources were plentiful. Plus I made some lifelong friends. These are people I still talk with and get together with on a regular basis. Our kids hang out together sometimes. I’ve attended their weddings. I know their parents. Lifelong bonds that I am truly thankful for. Bradley was really good to me.

Perhaps you feel the same way about your college experience. Well, maybe it’s time to consider getting involved as an alumnus. These thoughts aren’t just directed at my fellow Bradley University alums by the way. They’re for anyone. Look into it. Whether you happen to live in your college town or if you’re thousands of miles away I’ll bet you will be surprised just how easy – and rewarding – it is to give back to your alma mater.



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