Geoff Cleveland's father is a decorated Vietnam War veteran, and in January his brother leaves for his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East.
But it's Cleveland's mother, 62-year-old Kathy Cleveland, who is the "real soldier" in the family, according to her son. Kathy, the family matriarch, has battled leukemia for two years, but still manages to support her husband and four boys.
Which is why Cleveland, an Eagan native and current Apple Valley resident, wanted to give his mother something special this year. Cleveland nominated his parents, Kathy and Dave, for a free home holiday makeover courtesy of Christmas Decor's Decorated Family program—and to his surprise, they won.
On Thursday, a team of professional decorators—led by Christmas Decor's Melissa Crayford—swarmed over Kathy and Dave's Eagan home, hanging garlands, wreathes and lights while the pair was away at work.
The Decorated Family program, Crayford explained, was developed in 2002 by Christmas Decor, a national franchise, as a way to give back to families with veterans or active service members. Cleveland nominated his parents via the business' Facebook page. After reviewing his story, Christmas Decor called him to announce he had been selected.
As part of the program, a holiday decor team donated their time and energy to hanging elaborate decorations outside the Cleveland home. The holiday decor is temporary; the business will return after the holiday season to remove the garlands, wreathes and other accoutrements, Crayford said. The services come at no charge to the families involved.
"It's an honor for us to do this for a family that has given up a lot," Crayford said. "Our goal is to deck out whatever we possibly can on this house."
For Cleveland, it was the perfect way to show his mother, a guidance secretary at a local school, how much he and his brothers care for her. The surprise couldn't have come at a better time, either. For the first time in eight years, all four brothers will be home celebrating with their parents for Christmas.
"She’s done so much for us," Cleveland said. "With this entire thing here, I just want them to know that we’re always thinking of them, and we appreciate everything she's done for us."
After more than two hours of decorating, the house was prepared and Cleveland's parents finally arrived home. The surprise was total.
"I'm driving up, and it gets closer, and I was just shocked," said Kathy, describing her first look at the decorations adorning the front of her home.
It didn't take long for Kathy to give her husband and son a good-natured ribbing, however.
"I've been asking these two to put up the lights for weeks," she said with a laugh.