With her days numbered and the family nest egg sapped by medical bills, Jane Larsen figured cruel fate had finally stepped in to squelch once and for all a long-unrealized notion that she might one day get a true vacation with her husband and five sons.
But then her neighbors came through.Some of them dropped by the Larsen household two weeks ago to announce that residents of the area had pooled enough resources and pulled a few strings to see that the Larsen family would spend the next week on a holiday in Southern California.
Time, they realized, was something of the essence. Larsen learned less than a month ago she is dying of cancer, news that spread rapidly through her small community just southeast of the Salt Lake City limits. It triggered an outpouring of empathy that crossed religious boundaries and took the form of a production her friends dubbed "Dream Makers."
"When they found out her condition and such, members and non-members of the church just pulled together as neighbors," said Russell K. Booth, stake president for eight local LDS Church wards, one of which includes the Larsens.
"It was just wonderful, it was just like this miracle happening in our lives," said Larsen, who returned from the vacation with her family Monday afternoon.
The neighborhood knew Larsen had waged a successful battle with breast cancer two years ago, so when word came that cancer had appeared suddenly throughout her body, they reacted quickly, said Flannery.
Morris Travel donated free round-trip Salt Lake City-Los Angeles airline tickets for the entire family. An employee of the Marie Callendar's Restaurant chain dropped a hint, and the company gave the Larsens a week's worth of meals in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Hotels offered free lodging. Disneyland presented the family with two-day tickets. Sea World sent admission vouchers, Avis offered a considerable discount on a rental van, and a local limousine service took the Larsens to the airport eight days ago and picked them up when they got back to town Monday, at which time they found somebody had given their kitchen a much-needed coat of paint.
Friends and neighbors who didn't have connections asked "What do they need?" said Flannery. Money was the obvious answer and within fours days $3,600 was collected and presented to Larsen.