Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How you can assist two families in need after a tragic southwestern Minnesota fire December 6, 2013

2:15 P.M. FRIDAY, UPDATE TWO: The two children who died in the house fire Wednesday afternoon near Lucan have been identified by a family friend as Hazel Thooft, 7, and her brother, Isaiah, 4, according to a just-published story in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. (To read that story, click here.) Hazel was a second grader at St. Anne’s Catholic School in Wabasso and Isaiah attended preschool in the Wabasso School District.

The Wabasso Public School District is where I attended school in grades 9-12.

The remainder of this post was written this morning with information on benefit funds also just updated.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an update to my post about a house fire outside of Lucan in Redwood County in rural southwestern Minnesota which claimed the lives of two children Wednesday afternoon and also seriously injured a firefighter from my hometown of Vesta. Click here to read my initial story.

THE BODY OF A SECOND CHILD, as yet unidentified, was recovered late Thursday afternoon from the ruins of the Bernadette and Matt Thooft home, according to numerous news reports. Authorities found the first child’s body late Wednesday. Their names and ages have not yet been released.

Bernadette and Matt and several children escaped the fire.

A Vesta firefighter, Neal Hansen, remains hospitalized with serious leg injuries after he slipped on ice and was run over by a fire truck.

Online fundraising sites have now been established to raise monies for the Thooft and Hansen families.

Giveforward Thooft family - Copy

Via the Giveforward website, you can support the Thoofts either at Thooft Family Fund (click here) with a $25,000 goal or at Lucan Family loss from house fire (click here) with a $30,000 goal. As of this update, $8,030 have been raised.

First Independent Bank of Lucan has established a fund to collect monetary donations for the Thooft family. Checks should be made payable to and sent to the following address: Matt & Bernadette Thooft Benefit, P.O. Box 138, Lucan, MN. 56255. Donations may also be made in person at First Independent Bank locations in Lucan, Marshall (main bank and at Walmart location), Russell, Ruthton, Balaton, Wood Lake, Beardsley and Hanley Falls. Call (888) 747-2214 or email rhillesheim@fibmn.com for more information.

The United Way of Southwest Minnesota, 109 South 5th St., Suite 300, Marshall, MN., 56258, is also helping the Thooft family. The organization is accepting donations of gift cards and of clothing, toiletries and non-perishable food items. Additionally, the family will need furniture. Contact the United Way with information on the furniture you have available. When the family is ready to accept that furniture, volunteers will pick up and deliver the items. Email unitedway@unitedwayswmn.org or call (507) 929-2273.

The American Red Cross assisted the family with immediate needs, too.

Giveforward Hansen family - Copy

Fundraising efforts also continue online at Giveforward for the injured Vesta volunteer firefighter at Neal Hansen Benefit. Click here to help Neal and Tiffany, the parents of a two-year-old son. The campaign, as of this update, has raised $4,530, surpassing its $3,000 goal.

This tragedy has weighed heavy on my heart. I met the Thooft family in March when I stopped at Bernadette’s new business, The Store, a combination thrift shop and grocery store in my hometown of Vesta, population around 320. New businesses do not open all that often in this rural community, so I was excited and blogged about this in my post, “Little General Store on the Prairie”. (Click here to read.) Right next door, Bernadette’s husband runs Matt’s Frame Repair.

I was especially delighted to meet Bernadette, a woman with a big heart. I instantly warmed to her outgoing personality and sense of humor. She affectionately dubbed her seven children “the hoodlums” in the most loving way. Several of the youngest kids were showing off for me and posing for photos while I interviewed Bernadette. Now, to think…

Please, give to either/both of these families if you can and support them in prayer. Also, spread the word via social media.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Tom comes home & how you can help a young family in need February 20, 2013

There’s something about home. The creak of the porch floor as you walk to the front door, the glow of the yellow kitchen walls in the evening light, the whiz of the furnace. It’s so familiar. Comforting.

As Tom sat in the living room for the first time in six weeks, taking it all in again, he said he could feel his stress and tension begin to ease.

It’s good to be home.  — Nina Hedin’s February 15 Caring Bridge entry

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June. Photo courtesy of Nina Hedin.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June, before Tom’s accident. Photo courtesy of Nina Hedin.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE the relief Nina Hedin, a young mother and blogger (The Adventures of Artsy Nina) from Glencoe experienced in the arrival home last week of her husband, Tom, after he was seriously injured in a January 5 snowmobile accident.

It’s been a challenging journey for Tom and Nina and their children, 4-year-old Jack and 8-month-old June.

Certainly, there have been the physical and emotional challenges involved in Tom’s recovery from a long list of injuries: brain hemorrhage and complications, fractured orbital socket, facial lacerations, fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, broken left knee cap with severed tendon and puncture wound, and a right knee ligament injury.

But the family has faced the added stresses of physical separation while Tom was hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center and later rehabbing, first in Glencoe, and then at Courage Center in Golden Valley.

Factor in lost wages and mounting medical bills and the family’s stress level has to be incredibly high. I cannot imagine. Nina, though, has managed to maintain a mostly positive attitude, at least publicly, on Tom’s Caring Bridge website.

I am especially proud of how the community of bloggers shared her family’s story and how folks have rallied—praying, providing words of encouragement and contributing to the GiveForward “Help for Tom Hedin” fund to help fund his recovery. Thus far 67 donors have contributed nearly $5,000 toward the $40,000 goal. You can contribute by clicking here.

Additionally, at least one blogger, Beth Ann Chiles of Iowa, has pledged to donate 50 cents for every comment made on her “It’s Just Life” blog posts to the Hedin family for two months. During January, she and husband, Chris, gave $176 to the Hedins through her “Comments for a Cause” program.

Wouldn't you like to win these goodies from Beth Ann?

Wouldn’t you like to win these goodies from Beth Ann?

To encourage even more comments during February, Beth Ann is giving away a package of goodies like tea, handmade greeting cards and coasters, a Monkey Farts lotion bar (yes, you read that right) and more. You will need to click here to read the entire list. To qualify for the prize package, you must specifically comment on Beth Ann’s “Giveaway with an Ulterior Motive” post.

But, don’t stop there, comment on any of her February posts and Beth Ann will donate 50 cents per comment toward GiveForward “Help for Tom Hedin.” How easy is that to donate and help a family in need?

Now, as long as I am writing about recovery, I want you to check back tomorrow for a review of Garrett Ebling’s book, Collapsed, A Survivor’s Climb from the Wreckage of the 35W Bridge. I promise, you will learn a thing or 20 about survival, courage, challenges, love, the power of prayer and more.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

“Life can change in an instant”: A Minnesota family in need January 10, 2013

IT IS THE MOMENT we all fear—the late night phone call, the unexpected knock on the door.

For Nina Hedin, a young mother from Glencoe whom I highlighted in a magazine feature about 10 Minnesota bloggers, fear became reality on Saturday afternoon. Her husband, Tom, was seriously injured in a snowmobile accident.

Photo of Nina Hedin published in Minnesota Moments, winter 2012 issue.

I got to know Nina about a year ago, when she was among 10 Minnesota bloggers highlighted in a feature I wrote for Minnesota Moments magazine. This photo of Nina published in that winter 2012 story.

Here then, in Nina’s words, is the beginning of her family’s new reality:

I’ve told this story so many times over the last two days that the words are flying out of my fingers and onto this computer faster than I am thinking them.

Saturday, January 5, Tom left after lunch to ride snowmobile a little bit; he was going to visit a friend just outside of town. Around 3 pm he had still not returned and he had not sent any messages or called. This was VERY unusual for Tom and I was worried. Normally he’ll be out for 30-45 minutes and always, ALWAYS sends me random text messages.

I called friends that Tom sometimes rides with to ask if he had been by.

I hopped online to see if he used our check card anywhere; maybe he stopped for something to eat or there would be another clue.

At 4:30 pm there was a loud knock at the door. My stomach dropped. I knew it would not be good. I knew it. The county sheriff told me that Tom was in an accident and was to be airlifted to HCMC.

Fear, panic, adrenaline…

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

This, dear readers, breaks my heart. Even though I’ve never met Nina or her family, I remained connected to Nina after writing that initial magazine feature (which you can read by clicking here). I continued reading her The Adventures of Artsy Nina blog and we exchanged occasional emails. She is a vivacious, creative (she also runs two Etsy shops, Camp Honeybelle and Nina Baran Upcycled Vintage Jewelry)  and caring individual with a delightful sense of humor.

So when the call went out to Nina’s circle of blogging friends to share the Hedins’ story, I didn’t even have to consider. Helping someone in need, especially a friend, is the right thing to do. And the family needs assistance, both financially and in prayer.

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote:  "We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night."

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote: “We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night.”

Here again, in Nina’s words, are the injuries her beloved Tom suffered:

Injuries listed from top to bottom; brain hemorrhage and complications, fractured orbital (eye) socket, facial lacerations, fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, left knee cap broken with severed tendon and puncture wound, right knee ligament injury.

He faces a long, hard road to recovery. As of yet we are unsure of the extent of damage to the brain, and the recovery time/therapy needed for his limbs and back will take months.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

You can only imagine the insurmountable medical bills this couple in their early 30s, with two children, Jack, 3, and seven-month-old June, will face. An online “Help for Tom Hedin” account has been set up at GiveForward to assist the family with mounting medical and day-to-day expenses. The goal is to raise $100,000 by March 9.

Please consider offering your financial support by clicking here. Together we can make a difference and ease some of this family’s financial worries. Perhaps your friends, church group, family, co-workers, card club, coffee group, etc., can join efforts to collect monies for the Hedins. Every dollar, whether ten or 500, helps.

Because Tom has been with his current employer for only six months, he does not qualify for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has been his family’s main source of financial support.

Please also pray for the Hedin family and their medical team. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

In closing, let’s listen to Nina one last time with this excerpt from her January 8 blog post, “Life Can Change in an Instant”:

It’s a cliche. You hear it all the time, think it some of the time, but you don’t really get it until something happens to you and yours.

Life as you know it can change in an instant.

Hug your kids, your husband, your mom, your dad, your neighbor, your friend. You never, ever know what that next moment might bring.

TO OFFER WORDS of encouragement and support and/or to read the latest updates on Tom’s condition, visit his CaringBridge website by clicking here.

NINA’S BLOGGER CIRCLE of friends is already posting her family’s story. Click here to read a post by Montana resident and former Minnesotan Bernie at One Mixed Bag.

Then click here to read a post by Beth Ann from Iowa at It’s Just Life. For every comment posted to her blog during January and February, Beth Ann is donating 50 cents to the Hedin family for medical expenses. This is part of Beth Ann’s ongoing “Comments for a Cause” campaign. So simply by commenting on any of Beth Ann’s posts during the next two months, you will be helping Tom, Nina, Jack and June.

© Text and photos copyright of Audrey Kletscher Helbling and Nina Hedin
Photos courtesy of Nina Hedin