Phoenix PD Helps Save Christmas for Online Student’s Sick Child

December 04, 2012 / by / 6 Comments


Linzy Hoffmann hugs her mom, Jessica Smith, in front of the donated Christmas lights at their Phoenix home./Photo by Darryl Webb

By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau

Linzy Hoffmann sits in the gravel landscaping of her front yard, a smile entrenched on her face almost as bright as the Christmas lights that surround her.

The hardscrabble surroundings of her Phoenix home could be new-fallen snow as far as the happy-go-lucky 5-year-old is concerned as she unearths items in the gravel to share with her visitors on this cool winter evening.

And the lights?

Linzy is all smiles as she runs through Christmas tree lights in her front yard./Photo by Darryl Webb.

They came from the “fah-may,” says Linzy, who her mother fears may be experiencing her final Christmas as she awaits chemotherapy and radiation treatments to prepare her for bone marrow and kidney transplants due to a rare disease called Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia.

First explanations first: Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia is
an often fatal disease characterized by short stature (dwarfism), kidney disease and a weakened immune system.

And the “fah-may” is what Linzy calls uniformed ambulance, police or fire department officers. In this case, the “fah-may” are Phoenix police officers Jacob Lewis and David Head, who last week went above and beyond the call of duty to save a big part of Christmas for Linzy’s family.

Stealing Christmas: ‘Who does that?’

Linzy’s mom, Jessica Smith, put Christmas lights and decorations out a week before Thanksgiving this year. She wanted her daughter to experience Christmas for as long as she could, knowing an operation also could cut short the holiday season.

But on Nov. 21, after Jessica had dropped her fiancé off at work at 3 a.m., she returned home to find that all of the outdoor decorations had been stolen. Three spiral Christmas trees, two reindeer, a Santa’s sleigh, snowflake lights hanging from the roof and netting lights on the ground to resemble snow all had been ripped out and carted off.

“They must have had a window of about 20 minutes to do that,” Jessica said. “When I got back home, I was like, ‘Oh my God, who does that?’”

Phoenix police officers Jacob Lewis (left) and David Head pose with Linzy and her 2-year-old brother, Skylar./Photo courtesy of Smith family

Buying new lights really wasn’t an option; Jessica is on food stamps while she cares for Linzy during the day and takes online classes at GCU to become a special-education teacher. But “I really wanted the lights there when Linzy was going through chemo,” she said.

When Jessica called police, Lewis and Head responded.

The chances of recapturing the stolen property weren’t good, but Lewis and Head knew there was another way they could help after they learned of Linzy’s situation.

They contacted Angels on Patrol, an organization that assists Phoenix police with families and children in need, and wheels were set in motion to take the Smith family to Walmart to purchase new lights.

“We are not just police officers. We are fathers and have children of our own and want to help the community,” Lewis told Channel 12 News. “I am expecting my fifth child.”

The officers also dug into their own pockets, buying $80 worth of groceries for the family.

“I want to give her a good Christmas,” Lewis said.

That night, after the newly purchased lights were assembled on the Smith home, Linzy came outside and screamed, “My beut-bull (beautiful)” and “Santa’s coming!”

She and her 2-year-old brother, Skylar, immediately began running around the front yard.

“I was so thankful,” Jessica said. “All I could think about was how happy my babies were.”

Holding out hope for 15 percent

Jessica said doctors have told her that there is an 85 percent chance that Linzy won’t make it through the bone marrow procedure.

Physically and mentally, she more resembles a 2-year-old in her development, and she has been going through stages of kidney failure since she was 6 months old. In November, she started IV injections designed to boost her immune system so that it is strong enough to endure chemotherapy and radiation. If Linzy then gets through the bone marrow transplant, Jessica said doctors will want to perform the kidney transplant immediately while her immune system is at its peak.

Linzy plays in the gravel inside Christmas tree lights in her front yard./Photo by Darryl Webb

Even then, Jessica said another bone marrow procedure will be needed in another year or two.

“She is such a happy, energetic child. She doesn’t know she’s sick,” Jessica said. “She thinks going to doctors and going through tests is everyday life.

“Her immune system is so weak that we can’t go out in public where there are lots of people. We went to a McDonald’s for the first time about six months ago, and two days later she had bronchial pneumonia.”

For Jessica’s part, she is adamant that she stays strong for her daughter.

“Over the years I have learned to stifle my emotions,” Jessica said. “I don’t want her to see me like that. I don’t want her to ever see that anything is wrong. I want her to focus on being a little girl. … If I do lose her, I can cry all I want after.”

Still, there are moments …

“On Thanksgiving, I had to leave (the table) because I didn’t know if that would be our last Thanksgiving.”

As the Christmas holiday nears, the Smith family is still looking for bone marrow or kidney donors (Jessica didn’t qualify because she is diabetic). Donations also can be made to help the family with medical expenses.

Jessica said she would love to be able to take Linzy to see snow before she begins her medical procedures, and to meet Santa – possibly at the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff if she can arrange a time when not too many other kids are present.

A bank account has been set up at Wells Fargo – the account number is 1064675190 – and an online donation page has been established at

 Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or [email protected].

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6 Responses
  1. Theresa Yantis

    My prayers are with you and your family. I was a special ed teacher that is teaching nursing right now. It takes a special person to do it. I pray that God’s hand be with you all during the chemotherapy. Keep in touch with you teachers at GCU when you have hard times–they care and will work with you.
    God bless you,

    Dec.07.2012 at 12:19 pm
  2. Nicole Gredenius

    You are in my prayers and thoughts for your daughter’s on-going struggle. My brother is going through something traumatic as well for the second time in his life and he has the same treatments to go through at 45 as Linzy does at five. He has been through all of this and more before but he is a fighter and he is strong. At ten years of age he went through surgery on his head, chemo, and radiation with a great deal of other traumatic operations. He is going to have to endure that again. I know she can make it through it because God has her back. I will keep prayers going here in Illinois.

    Dec.08.2012 at 6:47 pm
  3. Karen Mackintosh

    On 12/8/2012 at 7:55 PM, Mackintosh, Karen writes:
    I’m so glad everything turned out for your holiday lights! I can not believe someone would do that!! I’ll be praying for you and your family everyday.
    So, what are you studying at GCU? I am studying Christian Studies and I graduate in October of next year. When do you graduate?
    Well, I just thought I would tell you that your situation touched my heart and if there is anything I can do, let me know.
    God bless you,

    Dec.08.2012 at 8:00 pm
  4. Sylvia Harper Humphries

    Linzy and Skylar are beautiful children. God’s blessings to all of you and may He continue to grant your family the strength and courage needed to endure each day. May it be of comfort to you knowing that others care.
    Peace be with you,

    Dec.09.2012 at 8:29 pm
  5. Michelle Cormier

    As a mother of 2 I can imagine the feelings you have right now. If there is anyway I can help I will. Linzy is in my prayers.

    Dec.10.2012 at 1:30 pm
  6. Kelli Robertson

    I am a new online student here at GCU and was going through previous online articles for those of us that are in this community. I realize this article is almost a year old now; however as an older student here at GCU and a mother of two grown girls, and a grandma of eight of which my four year old grand-daughter lives here in my home with mommy, my heart goes out to you! I am hoping and praying that Linzy beat that 85% ratio the doctors gave her last year. Either way I want you to know that you and your family shall now and forever more remain in my prayers here in Southern California. May the Lord keep you and yours safe, and I pray that no idiot there in Phoenix get your lights again. I cannot believe anyone could be so low as to steal someone elses Christmas lights!
    Kelli & family

    Sep.18.2013 at 6:28 pm
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