Silver Bay family surprised by 'Best Christmas Ever'
Just as snow started to fall the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 20, in Silver Bay, Kim Riedberger and her grandsons were cozied up on their couch before dinner.
Over at Zup's Grocery Store, a caravan of cars left the parking lot and followed a John's Sanitary box truck toward Riedberger's home. The truck was filled with presents and gift cards for Riedberger and her grandsons, Tysen, Brian and Elijah. The caravan was a group who have raised more than $4,000 over the past couple of months for the Best Christmas Ever (BCE) movement.
BCE started in 2011 to help give a couple of Minnesota families in need a Christmas celebration they otherwise couldn't afford. The goal is to raise money in gifts and support for each family with the hope of making a lasting impact on their lives. Each year since, the number of families supported has nearly doubled, including 100 this year. A planned 200 families will receive support in 2018.
The family has been through a tough year. Riedberger's father died Dec. 19, 2016, and Riedberger was injured just a few days later.
Her back injury caused her to lose her job and eventually her car. She also was taking care of her three young grandsons and money has been a constant struggle.
Riedberger was shocked when BCE Silver Bay captains Katie Robinson and Sara Barstow walked through the door with their arms filled with wrapped presents. It didn't stop with just Robinson and Barstow, however. About 15 people crowded into Riedberger's home — all of them carrying gifts for Riedberger and her family.
"I'm guessing you're wondering why we are here," Robinson said. "We work with Best Christmas Ever to surprise families in the area who have been having some tough times lately to show them that there are people there who care about them."
Riedberger could barely hold back the tears as Tysen, Brian and Elijah tore into a couple of the wrapped toys.
"This is so overwhelming to me right now, but it means so much to me," she said. "It's been our roughest year we've had."
Among the gifts were a four-person Valley Fair pass for anytime during the 2018 season and twin beds, complete with bedding and custom headboards for twins Elijah and Brian. Tysen also received a Nintendo Switch game system.
"Isn't it cool, Brian?" Tysen asked his brother as he started setting up his new handheld video game device.
BCE doesn't just provide toys and material gifts to the families they support — it also provides gift cards and other monetary support to help get the families through the tough times.
In addition, BCE provides a nine-week financial counseling course through Dave Ramsey Financial Ramsey. When Riedberger finishes the class, she will receive an additional $1,000 toward any bill she chooses.
Silver Bay residents and businesses all contributed to support the BCE for the Riedberger family, including John's Sanitary and Van House Construction in Silver Bay and Superior Fuel in Duluth.
"This is our Christmas," Riedberger said. "This is the most wonderful thing anyone has done for us."