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Family Was Always Ready To Help; Now It’s Your Turn

The Halls of Bare Mountain are known as good Samaritans by the residents of this small, rustic community north of Spokane.

After the father of a Riverside High School athlete was mortally injured in a car wreck, Debbie Hall was first in line to start a benefit drive for the griefstricken family.

When a friend’s toddler was run over by a car, Debbie put her own baby on a bottle. She nursed the friend’s infant for three weeks so the woman could stay at the hospital and care for her injured child.

Ken Hall is a hard-working, self-employed logger who raises 30 head of cattle on the family’s Bare Mountain farm, five miles northwest of Elk. No matter how busy, he always finds time to drive a sick person to a doctor or do an odd job for someone in need.

When the fires of ‘91 threatened to burn down half the county, Tressa Emch remembers, she frantically drove home from work to find sprinklers soaking her roof and dry brush cleared away from her house.

The woman later learned it was the Halls who had protected her property - Ken, Debbie and their four daughters: Stacie, Jessica, Cassidee and Lindsey.

“We had just moved to that place. I hadn’t talked to the Halls in months and didn’t even think they knew where I lived,” says Emch. “But that’s the way they are. They just don’t worry about themselves.”

Emch faxed me a letter last week to tell me that by the cruelest quirk of fate, these extraordinary do-gooders have found themselves in the worst kind of need.

“I know you probably receive many such requests,” she wrote, “but with some investigation on your part, I’m sure you’ll agree that the Halls are a very deserving family.”

Emch is right. A month rarely passes without someone asking me to beat the drum for a cause.

But she also is right that the Halls are truly something special. Even their disaster defies all odds.

In October, Ken, 41, was rediagnosed with melanoma, a horribly aggressive, nearly always fatal form of cancer.

He was put on experimental chemotherapy through the University of Washington. Then, terrible news struck the family two days after Christmas as Ken finished his first series of the powerful, debilitating drugs.

This time it was Jessica, a 17-year-old A student and soccer star at Riverside High.

At first, the girl started having trouble moving her right arm. Then her speech became oddly slurred.

Jessica was taken to a hospital for a CT scan. Doctors believe she suffers from an inoperable tumor in her brain stem, the brain’s delicate and complex command center.

“It was probably the most devastating thing I’ve ever been told,” says Debbie, 37. “I sat in that hospital; I just couldn’t believe it. It can’t be happening.

“When it’s your child, you want to fix things. Make it go away. But I can’t fix things for Jessica. That hurts.”

Doctors have decided to wait four weeks before Jessica begins chemotherapy. The Halls are trying to come to grips with how dramatically and suddenly their lives have changed.

The Halls are dedicated Christians, active at the Peaceful Valley Church in Elk. They are comforted by their faith and friends who are trying to repay some of the kindness.

Driving Jessica back from the hospital after her CT scan showed the Halls a bit of how this community feels about them. They turned on Oregon Road to find eight miles of yellow ribbons tied to the trees.

“We had tears flowing all the way home,” says Debbie. “I have to believe that things will work out.”

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