Melissa Manning poured over a thousand-plus nominations to find this year's Best Christmas Ever recipient. When she came across an anonymous letter asking BCE to consider the Baune family, she just knew.
Jasmyne Baune, 27, Red Wing, died in a rollover car crash which her young children survived, but perhaps only because of an observant stranger. Today the three children live with Jasmyne's parents, Jack and Kim Baune, and her sister, Heather, who graduated from Red Wing High School in 2008.
Manning, a captain for BCE, said the nonprofit raised almost $10,000 worth of gifts and cash, including $3,300 for a K-12 educational fund for the children. Red Wing businesses gave an additional $1,400 in gift certificates.
On Friday, Dec. 21, Manning and the BCE crew surprised the family - a tradition for the organization. The Baunes were clearly overwhelmed and nearly speechless.
"What you are going through is definitely hard. I can't imagine what all of you are going through daily," Manning said. "We just want to make it brighter."
The nominator wrote, "The world lost an amazing person, a young lady. These children have lost much more and these children deserve a blessing" and recounted a few details from the crash.
"Every time you get in the car it's hard to think about what they went through," Manning said.
Red Wing investigators determined that Baune intended to drop her three children at day care before her 5 a.m. work shift Sept. 18, but never got there. Nearly 10 hours later, Amanda Anderson was riding on a Hiawathaland Transit bus that had to stop for a school bus dropping off children near Spring Creek Road and Graves Drive. Anderson looked out the window as she waited and, from her elevated position, saw what appeared to be two car wheels sticking up through the underbrush in the ravine. Anderson called Goodhue County Dispatch.
Officers found a car resting on its roof. They could hear voices and discovered Baune's daughter Jaelyn, 7; son, Jameson, 18 months; and 9-month-old daughter Ramsey trapped inside. Jaelyn required surgery.
Manning said when she read the nomination letter, she thought about how difficult it would be if she wasn't able to be with her three children anymore. Manning said her children and Baune's children are of similar ages.
BCE worked with the anonymous nominator to find out what the family needed.
To have the opportunity to bless a family like Baune's is "incredible," Manning said.