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Shields of Hope surprise terminal man’s pregnant wife

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DORR, Mich. – A family in Dorr is getting an early and much-needed Christmas surprise thanks to local law enforcement.

Shields of Hope is a non-profit group of local public safety professionals in West Michigan, whose goal is to help families affected by cancer and make their lives a little easier. And Thursday night, their attention was turned to the Jirtle family.

Eric Jirtle, 37, was recently diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma - an aggressive cancer that's spread to his esophagus, stomach, lungs, liver, and lymph nodes. He and his wife Jennifer have been married for 2 years and are expecting their first child in March. If Eric makes it to Christmas, it may be his last one.

“I can’t imagine what this mother is going through,” says Mandy Beroza, a manager with Auto Body Xperts, a sponsor of Shields of Hope. She got involved with them a few years ago after they helped one of her cancer-stricken employees. “With having a new baby and everything. Any way we can help take a burden off is great.”

Volunteers, along with the Dorr fire department, made up a band of would-be elves, sneaking presents inside for a big surprise.

“I’m just amazed,” says Jennifer. “I wasn’t really expecting that and I’m just grateful for people that are so kind.”

Jennifer says she only wishes her husband could have been there for the surprise.

“He is in the hospital right now,” says Jirtle. “His mother is there, and we will be there. I’ve been there all week with him.”

Jennifer gave everyone a hug and thanked them for their kindness, and says she will never forget what the community and Shields of Hope have done for her family.

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