The Promise

An unfulfilled promise to his children is kept

Josh Bailey used to daydream with his father about how they╩╝d work together, fixing the upstairs of their house so the 10- year-old boy could have his own room.

They started their planning a year ago in April, because their family was outgrowing their small house on 15th Street in Kansas City, Kan. By fixing up the upstairs--long ago converted into a separate apartment- -they╩╝d make new rooms for Josh and his two siblings.

“That was before Dad got sick,” Josh said Christmas Day. “He promised me I╩╝d have a new room when I was 10.

Sometimes I didn╩╝t even think about it, I just thought about my dad.”

Jerry Bailey died Aug. 11 from a malignant brain tumor.

But on Christmas Day, Josh, Jacob, 6, and Miriah, 4, showed off new bedrooms built overnight by the Elves of Christmas Present, an anonymous group started in Olathe.

Each holiday season the Elves do good turns for people in the metropolitan area.

Jerry Bailey╩╝s wife, Sheri, stopped work to care for her husband during the last month of his life. He died at home, she said, with Josh holding his hand.

The illness wrecked the family╩╝s finances, said Keith Klausner, a friend, who admires the way they have persevered.
“It might not look like it from the outside, but God has really blessed this family,” Klausner said. “She╩╝s so strong, and they╩╝re really good kids with good spirits.”

But a remodeling project was out of the question. So the children would continue to share one bedroom. “We were scrunched up,” Jacob said.

Then someone passed word to the Elves, who for almost nine years have been delivering help to people during the holiday season.

Sheri Bailey said that when the Chief Elf contacted her about a week ago, she was only hoping for a paint job.

But the house needed much more. A week ago the attic was a leaky refuge for raccoons, with holes in the ceiling.

The elves took over at 9:30 p.m. Christmas Eve. The children stayed at Klausner╩╝s house overnight.

“A bunch of people I╩╝d never seen before came over and demolished my house,” Sheri Bailey said. “Everything just exploded. There were 25 people up here last night--men, women, teenagers.”

Craftsmen toiled through the night. They set up a shop in the garage to cut wood, she said, then knocked a hole in the kitchen wall to open the first floor to the stairway. They replaced ceilings, rewired light switches and sockets, patched walls, reconnected ductwork, installed carpet and painted--pink for Miriah and off-white for the boys.

“At 3 a.m. they called an interior decorator,” Sheri Bailey said. The woman came over with new curtains for the bedrooms.

Other elves brought new beds and mat- tresses, dressers and toys.

Josh, coming home on Christmas morn- ing, expected a surprise, but not this. “When we walked in the door,” Josh said, “we said ╩╗mommm, there are stairs...is this the surprise?”

Following those new stairs, they found the nearly finished rooms left by the elves.

“I won╩╝t be afraid up here, because I╩╝ll have a ceiling fan like Mom╩╝s,” said Miriah, showing off her room.

By 7 a.m. Friday, the elves were exhausted. They weren╩╝t quite done with the work, but as they went home, they pledged to return soon.

But not before they tacked a small brass plate in the upstairs hall, engraved with a message:

“A promise is a promise, love Dad.

RUSS PULLEY, The Kansas City Star