OGDEN -- Fifty-three-year-old Doug Holladay from Ogden is nearing the end stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease after fighting a 2 1/2-year battle with the incurable lung disease.
Holladay decided his final wish during his last days was to give back to the organization that gave him his life back after suffering from alcoholism and drug use -- the Salvation Army, who took him into their rehab program after being hospitalized from an overdose 10 years ago.
Two months ago, when Holladay received news that his life was nearing an end due to his disease, he was sent home from a care center and began receiving hospice treatment. The nursing team asked what he wished to do in his last days.
Holladay said he always wanted to be a Christmas kettle bell ringer -- the iconic red kettles with their coinciding bell ringer during the holiday season in front of businesses to raise money for the Salvation Army.
Holladay's wish was granted. For six hours on Dec. 5, while sitting in his wheelchair, Holladay rang a bell outside of the Riverdale Walmart, even though the temperatures were in the low teens. His goal was to fill three kettles.
Walmart provided him with layers of blankets and an electric heater because he was determined to stay in the proper location outside of the store. Despite the extra layers of warmth, the 98-pound man hooked to an oxygen machine was still shivering.
He surpassed his goal, filling 4 1/2 kettles and raising $1,856 dollars. It was a God-send to the charitable organization because they are 30 percent behind their usual donations with Thanksgiving so late in the season, according to Lt. Sam LeMar, who oversees the Ogden Salvation Army office.
"Once he heard that, Holladay wanted to give back by ringing a bell, using every last bit of energy and life he has left," LeMar said.
Holladay said he didn't notice the cold.
"I grew up in Utah, so I understand cold," said Holladay, who despite being on significant doses of pain medicine endures pain on a daily basis and is currently suffering mini-strokes as his liver and kidneys are shutting down. "I thought by being a bell ringer, even in the cold, I will suffer to the day I die just so one child or parent doesn't have to go through pain or suffering."
LeMar, helped Holladay get through the recovery program 10 years ago. The pair have been friends since.
LeMar said he has watched Holladay spend countless hours helping others, so he wasn't surprised by Holladay's last request.
"Cancer for him has become a gift -- a gift for him to give back," said LeMar. "Doug embodies what the Salvation Army does. While he is facing pain and certain death, he is still serving others selflessly."
Holladay realizes he may not live to see Christmas Day this year, but to him, his Christmas has already arrived. "Christmas is all about giving, and seeing families come in to the Salvation Army to get shoes and toys and they are just full of smiles, that is my Christmas," said Holladay. "In a way, it's a blessing that I have my illness so I can share my story."
What Holladay didn't realize was how fast his story would spread across the nation.
"All I really wanted to do was go ring a bell and collect money," said Holladay. "I'm not here to take any credit because I would have been dead a long time ago had it not been for the help from the Salvation Army."
LeMar agreed with his friend, and said, "The awareness isn't only for the Salvation Army, but for anyone else who is struggling with terminal illness, or for those out there who don't have hope, Doug is providing that inspiration to make a difference, going out and being a part of change."