History

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The Beginning Of A Christmas Tradition

By: Alison Hayes Larsen

It all began with a dream I had several years ago. In 2002 my mother, Irene Hayes, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was given a few short months to live. Instead, we enjoyed a wonderful year with her and she fought so hard to beat it. During that year, she received treatments from the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The staff at the Huntsman was amazing–kind, compassionate, and genuinely caring. They made mom’s treatments almost bearable. We were so grateful for the wonderful facility and how they cared for her. Mom and I talked about how nice it would be to do some sort of fund-raiser for the Huntsman in return for all they were doing for her. We thought of things like bake sales, craft boutiques, 5 K runs, etc. Then one night I had a dream that my family put on a big play and the people liked it so much we kept doing it night after night. After the play was over, we had raised over 1 million dollars for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I told this dream to mom and we just laughed. She knew first hand how much work a production like that would take. A few months after mom passed away, the holidays were here and I was missing her so much and wondered how our family would make it through Christmas without her, when the thought and vision of this nativity came to me. I could see the whole thing so clearly, as if mom had helped paint this picture for me from heaven. But, we only had a few weeks before Christmas. In three weeks time, my whole family jumped on board and we held the first Living Nativity. It was miraculous how it all came together–so many people were willing to help! We lined up animals, costumes, hot chocolate, trailers and lots of people to volunteer each night. We felt like mom was helping us from above as so many things fell into place. During that first production of the nativity, we saw the children’s eyes light up and their parent’s eyes fill with tears as they saw the “real baby Jesus.” One boy said, “Mom, every year we go see Santa, how come this is the first year we’ve come to see the baby Jesus?” We felt such a special spirit and knew we were a part of a Christmas tradition for years to come. We are so grateful for a mother who taught us by example how to serve as Christ did, how to love like He does, what Christmas is really about and the true spirit that can be felt when we have our hearts in the right place. We have donated over $ ????  to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Operation Smile and Hirschie Smile so far and people have been so generous.  But the money collected is only the icing on the cake. More importantly, we feel closer to our mother, closer to our Savior, and our family loves the tradition of the Living Nativity that we have created. We think Mom looks forward to this tradition as much as we do. Originally, our purpose was to earn money for the Huntsman and to help us feel closer to our mother. As we look to the future our new hope is that we, along with the Don Watkin’s family, Will Jones family, and others in the community, can share with you in celebrating the Birth of our Savior. This has truly been a dream come to life! We hope that the images of this nativity and the spirit felt here will remain in your hearts this Christmas season and may the love of our Savior be with you all year long until we see you again next year.

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