The Heart of Christmas
Dax Ryan Locke, born to Julie and Austin Locke on June 26, 2007, was diagnosed with AML M7, a rare form of leukemia, when he was 13 months old.
The Heart of Christmas is set in Washington, Illinois and at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of the world's premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other deadly diseases in children. Told in flashback from the perspective of Megan (Candace Cameron Bure), a successful businesswoman, wife and mother of two, the storyline unfolds when her commitment to faith and family is renewed after reading the blog of Julie Locke, (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/daxlocke), the online journal that Julie kept after Dax was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
In The Heart of Christmas, Megan, who has been struggling with finding time for her husband Walt (Burgess Jenkins) and hasn't made it to one of her daughter Emma's (Brooke Bryan) soccer games all year, has forgotten that it is Halloween until her son Jackson (Christian Nelson, Hayden Nelson) is standing in front of her in costume, ready to go trick-or-treating. After bargaining with Emma to take her brother door to door in a nearby neighborhood for a few hours so she can finish a business proposal, they race out of the house, only to find hundreds of homes lit up for Christmas on Halloween. Confused by this scene, Megan asks neighbors Mark (Matthew West) and Trish (Erin Bethea), who have rallied the community to bring Christmas holiday cheer to the Locke family upon Dax's (Chris Shone, Nick Shone) final return home from St. Jude, to explain the scene before them. Trish hands Megan a card with Julie Locke's (Jeanne Neilson) blog information on it and encourages Megan to read it. Before Megan is able to react, Trish sends her away with a heartfelt warning, stating, "it will change your life."
Through Megan's narrative, we are introduced to Dax's father Austin (Eric Beck), who is deeply concerned about Dax's prognosis; the type of cancer has poor survival rates in children Dax's age. Austin is committed to being open to new forms of treatment and to staying hopeful for Dax, for his wife Julie, her sister Melissa (Kelsey Marie Kingsbury) and Dax's grandmother Theresa (Anita Renfroe). During their hospital stay at St. Jude, Julie Locke meets Michelle (Dendrie Taylor), whose daughter Elizabeth (Kaya Millar) is also being treated there. Michelle introduces Julie to a support system of other moms, who encourage Julie to blog about Dax's progress and her journey as a way to keep friends and family informed. Days after initial treatment begins, we meet the team of incredible doctors at St. Jude: Nurse Lisa (Sophia Sinise), Dr. Sandler (George Newbern) and Dr. Benson (Karl T. Wright), who is charged with telling Julie and Austin that, after months of treatment and a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows, the experimental, last chance effort was unsuccessful in curing Dax's cancer. Determined to give Dax one last Christmas, Austin Locke surprises Julie and Dax with a Christmas tree- even though it's October. The neighbors quickly catch on and surprise the Locke's by showing up at their home to give Dax, his family and the community a magical night to remember.
The Music Behind the Movie
The GMC World Premiere Movie The Heart of Christmas was also inspired by Matthew West's viral holiday hit music video, "One Last Christmas," released last year. West, who has penned tunes for Billy Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts and Natalie Grant, among others, heard about the two-year old from Washington, Illinois and his struggle with leukemia that sparked a worldwide outpouring of support for his family and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where Dax was treated at no cost to the family. On the heels of releasing his hit single, West helped to raise over $205,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This October, West released his first Christmas album, also titled "The Heart of Christmas." Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Mandisa contributed to the album. Songs from the album, which is a mix of original music and holiday classics, will be featured throughout the GMC World Premiere Movie. The album's title track will be released to radio along with a music video. West will also embark on a Christmas tour with Mandisa in December.
The Dax Locke Foundation
The grief Julie and Austin Locke felt after Dax passed away was eased by the love and support they received. In October, 2010, Julie and Austin welcomed a daughter, Madeline Elizabeth Locke, named after Elizabeth Dunford, daughter of Michelle, the mom that Julie met at St. Jude, who she remains close friends with. The Dax Locke Foundation, "Cherish Every Moment," continues to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude. The Foundation aims to raise 1.7 million dollars; the cost to run St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for one day. For further information, visit, www.stjude.org/heartofchristmas.