- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - A dozen or so strangers braved the cold on a Thursday night in December to build snowmen in Billy Larsen’s front yard.

That evening had been tough for 6-year-old Billy, who has autism. He learned that school was canceled the next morning because of weather and that meant his Christmas party at Sherwood Heights Elementary School wouldn’t happen either. Change is often difficult for children with autism and the first-grader took it hard, reported the East Oregonian (https://bit.ly/2h3kgx4).

After her son and husband went to bed, Holli Larsen tried to think of ways to cheer up her son. He loves snowmen, she thought. He would smile if he looked out the window the next morning and saw a snowman. Building one herself, however, was problematic for several reasons - a sleeping husband who needed to get up early for his job and the chance of Billy awakening. Plus, she admitted, she was exhausted and didn’t feel like getting wet and cold.

On a whim, Holli posted a message to the Real Pendleton Classifieds Facebook page that she would pay $20 to anyone who would come and “build my special need son a snowman right now. Want him to be surprised in morning. School was canceled tomorrow & Christmas parties, etc. This may help him.”

Jared Wright and two buddies were sitting at McDonalds at the time. One of his friends saw the post and said, “Hey Jared, you can go make twenty bucks for gas.” Wright decided to head over, but on the way across town decided not to take the money because, well, “Christmas is a time for giving.”

About a dozen others showed up too. Most were strangers to each other. The intrepid snowman builders parked their vehicles so their headlights illuminated the yard and got to work. They soon discovered it’s not easy to pack snow in such dry conditions.

“The challenge was the powdery snow,” Wright said.

He said they tried to pack it down with snow shovels and experimented by piling mini-snowballs. Nothing worked.

“They had a heck of a time,” Holli said. “It wasn’t snowman snow.”

Finally someone suggested going to the Dollar Store parking lot where snow had been cleared and compressed into piles. They loaded snow into three pickup truck beds and hauled it back to the Larsen’s yard. A couple of hours later a pair of snow people stood vigil, waiting for Billy to awake. Wright called them “snow minions.” Nicole Carver, who had come with her husband and 7-year-old daughter, had brought a carrot for a nose. They hunted for sticks and rocks to serve as eyes and mouths. A couple of people donated hats to cover the snowmen’s frozen heads.

“It was a complete team effort,” Wright said. “We were just happy to help this kid out for Christmas.”

The next morning, Billy looked outside and got a happy surprise.

“He was very excited,” Holli said. “He forgot all about school.”

“It was awesome,” Billy said later.

Holli, who gave her $20 to the Carvers’ daughter for Christmas money, said she is extremely grateful to her group of good Samaritans.

“I am overwhelmed,” she said. “It was so unexpected.”

___

Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.com


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