Have you seen the Christmas news story about the group of Texas moms who have come together to give a Dallas-area family an amazing holiday? It’s a moving story about average moms doing above-average things to change lives, lift up women and care for children. My friend and fellow Bathwater blogger Sarah is on the front lines of this story, and I have asked her to blog about the experience. Because even though there has been a lot of news about them, you probably haven’t heard the whole story. Get ready to read about a true Christmas miracle.
Over two years ago, a sweet lady in my little town of 20,000, we’ll call her “Mrs. B,”decided to start a Facebook group for buying and selling your goods locally. A Craigslist without the scary freak factor, if you will. We met, we hit it off and before I knew it, she recruited me to help her run this fledgling group of hers. I think it had about 25 members at the time. We’re now just under 1,400.
We are the “Moms of Murphy”or just “MoMs” for short. We all live in our little town of Murphy, Texas, (except for a few who got in before we closed it to “outsiders” when it really took off). Mrs. B and I had no idea how popular this little group would be. We have rules of conduct and yes, we have kicked people out for violating them. We’re pretty tough cookies, Mrs. B and me.
In the fall of 2013, we threw around the idea of having an Angel Tree for the holidays to help those less fortunate have a good Christmas. This quickly morphed into the entire group adopting a family in November and December and became our “Bless a Family” tradition. It was big – really big and the MoMs were very into it! I was so proud. It actually continued throughout the year as we heard about families who needed help. A mom in another town who needed help with uniforms for her kids, a single dad who lost his house in a fire, a mother fleeing a domestic violence situation – we adopted them all.
I could not be more proud of how these women stepped up. It’s a combination of giving both gently used items and buying new things. The group also gives cash and gift cards, basically whatever is needed and whatever we can do to help. The families generally have connection to one of our MoMs, and it gives us great joy to help where we can.
This October, I put a call out to the MoMs to send me nominations for our November and December “Bless a Family” families. I heard from my dear friend and Murphy MoM “Mrs. G” about a family she knew where both parents were battling stage 4 cancer. Well that completely knocked the wind out of my sails and I just had to know more. We met with the family’s sister-in-law and knew immediately this was the family for us In fact, they became our “Bless a Family” for the entire 2014 holiday season.
Jennifer Mullen was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in September 2013. Her husband Dwight was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer 2 weeks later. They have three children; ages 11, 9 and 8. Both “beat” their initial cancers only to have them return in their livers. Yes, both livers. They conquered that only to find out several weeks ago that Jennifer’s had gone to her brain and Dwight’s has now spread to almost every bone in his spine.
I knew the moment that I met Jennifer that we would be friends forever. She has an amazing spirit and lights up a room with her smile. She wants nothing and asks for nothing and you can just tell that accepting help is hard. You see, the Mullens are givers – they’re usually the ones in our position doling out help and love and compassion and assisting in any way they can. It’s hard for them to have the tables turn and you can see that.
We started out slowly. I met with Jennifer and explained who we are. We’re just a bunch of MoMs who select a family to “bless” around the holidays … but also, hold onto your hat. I think that’s kind of how it went. It was a whirlwind after I put the call out to the MoMs. We had an electronic sign-up list of needs – mortgage, bills, their family Christmas wish of a staycation to Great Wolf Lodge. We signed up to stock their pantry with staple items and snacks for the kids, laundry soap, paper towels and toilet paper. Knowing how important it is to keep germs at bay, we bought more cleaning supplies than they could possibly need. But now they have it and they don’t have to spend money on it! MoMs signed up for gift cards so Jennifer and Dwight could shop for the kids for Christmas, and for restaurant gift cards so they could order take-out and be relieved of cooking duty when they want! Our attack is well-planned but very thought out. We had a MoM donate an entire wardrobe of gently used clothing to the two Mullen daughters and let’s just say they were THRILLED!
Once Jennifer realized how “into” this whole thing we all are, she made her first request. It was so hard for her to ask, and I could see it in her face. The dreaded garage. The Mullens had moved into their smaller house right before their diagnosis and the garage remained unorganized and unpacked. She informed me of this on a Friday. On Monday I showed up with several MoMs and in 5 hours we had that garage emptied, sorted, organized and put back together! That’s just the type of thing we love to do! Jennifer was thrilled, Dwight was thrilled and they parked a car in the garage for the first time that evening!
A couple weeks later we had our first MoMs of Murphy Craft Fair that benefited the Mullen family. Vendors paid a booth fee and there was a raffle as well. We raised more than $1,300 that day. The best part was that Jennifer came by and got to walk around and meet a ton of MoMs and they got to give her little treats and hugs and say hello to her. It was so wonderful for everyone involved.
Their washing machine wasn’t working properly, we sent a guy over. They weren’t feeling up to decorating the house for Christmas, no problem! Murphy MoM Mrs. R is an interior decorator and decked their house out from top to bottom, even arranging for the outside of their house to be decorated professionally with lights! Another MoM arranged for them to have a limo ride to see Christmas lights in one of North Dallas’ most popular neighborhoods. They are having professional family photos taken right after Christmas. Our goal is to make their Christmas happy, memorable and stress-free!
The week before Christmas, Fox4 News came calling. It was very surreal. They wanted to do a feature on Dwight and Jennifer and wanted to interview me as well. I spoke to the reporter and quickly realized that this would be done from a very positive angle and we all agreed to do the interview. It happened very quickly. Jennifer and I exchanged texts about how un-camera-ready we were feeling. (Where’s a Glam Squad when you need one?) Less than 24 hours later I’m at the Mullen house with bright lights everywhere talking to a lovely reporter from Fox4. Dwight and Jennifer were simply awesome. Funny and charming as always. The camerawoman did NOT remove 20 pounds from me as I requested and, frankly, I will never forgive her for that. A small 90-second clip ran the next morning after we got bumped that night due to a plane crash. (Sheesh!) The larger story ran a couple nights later and Dwight and Jennifer were spectacular. They were truly inspiring!
And then the weirdest thing happened. The story went NATIONAL. We hit Fox News. All of the sudden the opening line was “A mom’s group in Texas… .” We could not believe it. Who would have thought that our little story could make such a big impact. Just goes to show that an idea from a group of moms in little ‘ol Murphy, Texas, can become such big news.
As of now, cash donations through MoMs of Murphy and our connections top $16,000 and grow daily. We have given the Mullens more than $2,000 in gift cards and a MoM nominated them for the KLTY Christmas Wish, which they were selected for, which yielded another $1,000 in Wal-mart gift cards. The blessings keep coming in daily and we are constantly looking for ways to continue to make their holiday special.
With each squeal of delight we hear from the kids or insanely happy text I get from Jennifer or hug from Dwight, I know that we could not have selected a more perfect family. The Mullens might be our 2014 “Bless a Family” but I think we are the ones who have been blessed.
Oh, and by the way, that nasty brain cancer Jennifer was diagnosed with just a few weeks ago … um, it’s gone!
Miracles DO happen!
You can see more news coverage of the MoMs and the Mullens here: