Joliet National Guard family gets holiday surprise

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The family of a Joliet serviceman was surprised Friday with elaborate Christmas decorations.

The Orellana family pulled into their Joliet home's driveway to a big surprise: holiday lights covering their house top to bottom.

Reds and greens on the roof and the front walkway, plus garland trim on the garage door.

Unfortunately Orellana's husband, Illinois Army National Guard Specialist Eddie Orellana, wasn't there to experience the moment with his wife and three children because he's currently deployed in Kuwait.

Specialist Orellana's absence has been tough with Christmas Day, which is also the couple's oldest daughter's birthday, approaching, Tiffany Orellana's mother, Karen Richards said. Even tougher, the family had moved into their home just two weeks before he deployed.

"They really didn't have any time to get the house in order before he left," Richards explained, adding that her daughter did not decorate extensively this year due to her husband's absence.

"So right now she was just planning on doing the inside and then gradually, when Eddie comes back next summer, to gradually start buying things to decorate the outside of the house. So with her house being this big she couldn't wait to get the outside decorated," Richards said.

But now the Orellanas don't need to wait, thanks to local Christmas Decor franchisee Gary Fouts. Fouts donated his staff's time Friday to rake the Orellanas' front lawn and lay out an elaborate lighting display, with bulbs popping up out of the ground and wrapped around bushes and trees.

"A lot of times they have young kids, they're missing their mom or their dad, and it's just a way to bring holiday cheer to them at a time when they're not having that much holiday cheer with their loved one gone," Fouts said.

Fouts has been doing this "Decorate a Soldier" donation event for an area service member for more than a decade. Richards found out about the opportunity and recommended her son-in-law.

Richards said the Orellanas have had financial troubles in the past, but were finally able to purchase their home in May.

"It's going to make them so happy and just make their Christmas even more special with Eddie not here... I'm just overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed. Filled with love," Richards said.
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