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Axner Excavating donates tree, gifts to mom with lung cancer


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Axner Excavating donates tree, gifts to mom with lung cancer

By Christy Lochrie (Contact)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

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Christmas compassion

LIGHT MOMENT: Norma Mott, right, and her daughter, Nicole, 9, clown around in their Lake California home. Teachers and others at Evergreen Elementary School in Cottonwood recently delivered a Christmas tree and gifts to Mott’s family. Mott has lung cancer and has been unable to work. View gallery »

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Christmas wasn't looking very merry for Norma Mott and her three children, Dylan, 15, Nicole, 9, and Ka'eo, 7.

The 51-year-old Cottonwood mother was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer, meaning the cancer has spread from the lungs, in September. She started chemotherapy treatments in October and has been home sick since.

"I was thinking it was going to be a Dollar Tree Christmas," Mott said. Enter Holly Jones, Ka'eo's second-grade teacher at Evergreen Elementary School.

During a parent-teacher conference, Mott told Jones about her battle with cancer, just to give her a context, in case Ka'eo started acting up in class.

There was no bad behavior. But Jones was reminded of what her pupil was dealing with when she assigned the class a Christmas-letter writing assignment and asked the students to read their letters to their classmates.

Ka'eo faced his classmates with his letter.

"He just wanted his mom to feel better and then he announced to the class that his mom had cancer," Jones said.

Jones also learned that the family didn't have a Christmas tree, since Norma Mott was too weak to get one -- and family finances were tight.

Before Mott, a single mother, became sick, she earned $10.50 an hour as a dispatcher for Win-River casino in Redding. She also receives $800 a month in child support, but that is sporadic, she said. She receives another $388 every two weeks in disability payments. That amounts to about $1,640 a month in income, but she pays $1,000 a month to rent a house near her brother's home, she said.

Jones wanted to help, so she called her cousin, Sherry Tunin, who works at Axner Excavating in Redding. Jones asked if the company would donate a Christmas tree to the family.

"Of course, if a family needs a tree" we'd donate one, Tunin said, and asked if the Motts needed anything else.

Before long, Axner's 88 employees had raised enough cash to give the family a $550 Wal-Mart gift card, a box brimming with gifts and Christmas decorations.

Jones, along with Zach Soinila, Nicole's teacher, and Evergreen's Principal, Debbie Oppezzo, delivered the early Christmas to the family.

Tears well in Norma Mott's eyes when she thinks about the visit -- and the teachers who brought in the tree to divert the children's attention so that some of Santa's gifts could be stashed for Christmas morning.

"People are so nice. They don't know me. What they did for me was amazing," Mott said.

Mott, who will undergo surgery for her cancer in a couple of weeks, said she was able to stock up on groceries and catch up on bills after the generous donation.

Now she's hoping to get well enough to resume work and eke out a few more years with her children, who she adopted one at a time, when each needed a home.

"I'm going to get through this, at least until my babies are big enough" Mott said.

But while Mott puts on an optimistic face, she also quietly faces a haunting reality: She may die from lung cancer before her children are old enough to care for themselves.

Lung cancer kills more people each year than any other form of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mott wants her children to have a part of her if the worst happens.

"I'm writing a journal for each of them, just in case," Mott said. "There are so many things I want them to know about the power they have in themselves."

In Dylan's journal she wrote: "My sweet, precious, No. 1 boy, I am writing to you, a little every day or so, so you will remember just how special you are. I hope you never take for granted the life God intended for you, Dylan. I can tell you son, there are no coincidences or accidents when it comes to God. He has a very perfect plan for you. Do you realize that 11 years ago, I thought I'd never get to feel the joy of motherhood, and now I have three beautiful, perfect children and you were the beginning of that for me..."

Today they have each other. And a super-sized Christmas present.

"I've got a lot of faith," Mott said. "I know there are miracles."

Reporter Christy Lochrie can be reached at 225-8309 or clochrie@redding.com. Read her blog at blogs.redding.com.

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