ASHTON — Dakota Nelson is still in shock.
The young widower, left with seven children following the unexpected death of his 38-year-old wife, Ream, was leaving work last Tuesday when EastIdahoNews.com showed up with a gift from Secret Santa.
The part-time Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seminary teacher had some of his kids open the box and they discovered $2,000 in gift cards and an $8,000 check. Nelson became so overwhelmed with gratitude that he couldn’t speak.
His touching response has now been seen millions of times around the world. It’s become the most popular Facebook post EastIdahoNews.com has ever had – reaching nearly three million people in less than a week with over 1.2 million views.
Inside Edition picked up the story, MSN.com featured it on its homepage, dozens of other websites and Facebook pages shared it and a reality show producer in California even expressed interest in the family for a potential project.
Donations to a GoFundMe account, set up days after Ream collapsed, have skyrocketed over the past few days with donations coming from across the globe.
Nelson says he’s overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers and plans to put the Secret Santa money to good use. His family currently does not have a vehicle big enough to transport everyone so whenever they go anywhere together, Nelson drives one car (that was recently given to him after his vehicle broke down) and his 16-year-old son drives another.
He sent this letter to Secret Santa last week and gave permission to EastIdahoNews.com to share it.
It is hard to write this as I am at a total loss of words. There is no way for me to accurately convey how grateful we are for this kindness. As I was surprised with the gifts, I looked at my kids – who will remember this event forever as the best time they had in a hard time. Thank you for being an example to my family on how to look out for the needs of others.
I have noticed that through this ordeal, we have been blessed to see kindness replace the pain of losing a loved one whom I had been married to for 17 years. My children have noted this and have stated that they want to do the same for others.
Thank you again for making this Christmas special.
Again, I just cannot convey how thankful we are but let me provide you with a few more details of the story.
On July 11, we had been cleaning out the garage together and I left to put some tools in the shop 30 feet away while Ream swept the floor. I had been gone less then 5 minutes and saw her lying on her back with eyes wide open. My 3-year-old was standing over her talking as he thought she could hear him due to her eyes being open.
I ran and cradled her in my arms and blew into her mouth thinking she choked on something. I then started CPR and my 8-year-old walked out and started screaming. I told him to leave and my 12-year-old walked in the garage and, seeing the situation, called 911 and put on a show so the other kids would not go out to see her. He then went down to the end of the street to waive down the ambulance.
After two and a half weeks at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in ICU, she was moved to long-term care and we watched her pass away on Sept. 30 with all of her 7 kids gathered around. Her body had become septic and she had no hope of recovery. I wanted her to pull out of it so badly but it was not to be.
I know no one makes it through life without some sort of event that is strenuous to the soul but I had not realized how much one can be happy even when the light is out and it is dark. Thank you for being that light.
I have asked my two oldest kids, 12-year-old Micaiah and 16-year-old Ammon, to include their thoughts:
Thank you so much for all joy you brought to us. I had basketball that day but when my brother told me we were on the news, I was pretty confused. Then when my dad showed me the video I was holding back tears. Everyone I told they were crying and stuff like that. This will probably be my best Christmas ever. Thanks again I wish you a Merry Christmas.( :\ From: Micaiah
I want you guys to understand how much this meant to my family and how happy we are for this gift. It is so special to know that even our family in a small little town is being helped this Christmas season and so are countless others. Thank you so much. I can not even begin to tell you how grateful my family is.