Best Christmas Ever for Harberts family
A bowling party at Bunkie's Grill & Lanes of Blooming Prairie turned into a giant-sized Christmas present opening party for Jaxon Harberts and his father Brandon on Saturday, Dec. 22.
It was the Best Christmas Ever, a non-profit 501-C3 organization, that brought more than 100 gifts for Jaxon and Brandon.
Rachel Harberts, a first grade teacher at the Blooming Prairie Elementary School, her son Jaxon and her daughter Emerson were enroute to school from their rural Dodge Center home on Friday, Sept. 7 when they were involved in a car crash.
Emerson died instantly at the scene and her mother died six days later of injuries suffered in the crash.
Local BP resident Amy Simon nominated Jaxon and his father to receive a Best Christmas Ever surprise. The organization received 700 letters of application and was able to respond to 200 of them.
Tasha Gilbertson, a close friend of Rachel Harberts and her college roommate, said Brandon's family was the first picked.
Representatives of Best Christmas Ever met up with friends of Jaxon and Brandon in the parking lot of Farmers & Merchants State Bank. The entourage then paraded to Bunkie's where they crashed the bowling party and caught Jaxon and Brandon totally by surprise.
This program is designed "to lift up families that have fallen upon tough times to no fault of their own," said Jason Kunz, one of the founders of Best Christmas Ever with Dr. James R. Midboe. The non-profit organization was founded in 2011.
Jaxon and his dad, Brandon, opened up every present as an estimated crowd of 80 looked on in the golfing simulator room of Bunkie's.
Co-founders of the Best Christmas Ever, Dr. Midboe and Kunz, said Best Christmas Ever is "all about giving during the holiday season."
Dr. Midoe said Best Christmas Ever was inspired by courage shown by Brandon and his son Jaxon. "Hundreds of people have stepped up to help," said Midboe who was flanked by volunteers from BCE.
Nominator Simon read her letter of nomination and said the Harberts family "hangs on to hope and will never know why the tragedy happened." Simon said Brandon and Jaxon are not alone in fighting this tragedy.
Dr. Midboe said the Best Christmas Ever group had a gift opening party the night before many came down to Blooming Prairie to make the Christmas gift drop, "a real celebration," he continued.
Jaxon opened the first gift and it was something he has wanted, a set of golf clubs. As he pulled the clubs out of its box, Jaxon laughed about his size and his dad said he would get him re-sized for his clubs. "I wish I were taller," Jaxon said.
"I just don't grow, I've waited five years to get taller," he joked.
Brandon was next to open a gift and responded with a loud WOW! as he opened a Yeti cooler. "Now, you don't need a new cooler," Jaxon said to his dad.
Fighting emotions of the afternoon, Brandon said he was not much for public speaking but wanted everyone to think twice about using cell phones when driving. The person who struck the Harberts vehicle from behind was allegedly using a cell phone at the time of the crash.
"It's humbling to be part of something so much bigger than yourselves," said founder Kunz. "It's tough saying no," he added.
Best Christmas Ever shows families how many people are behind them and pulling for them," said Kunz.
Following the reading of her letter of nomination, Simon said the Best Christmas Ever efforts "are incredible." She is a pre-kindergarten assistant and said she met Rachel through the kids.
Simon has been very involved in helping the Harberts family in other ways, too. She organized the Honeycrisps (apples) for Harberts fund drive, which was done at football games and volleyball matches.
Speaking out loud to herself as she watched Jaxon and Brandon open their gifts, Lynette Harberts said, "This is overwhelming and amazing at the same time."