SHERBURN - A car crash that could have ended in tragedy instead was the perfect vehicle to help move forward Taryn Tumbleson's favorite cause.
It was Aug. 26 when Tumbleson, a junior at Martin County West, was in a crash on a gravel road on her way to catch a bus in Trimont for her next volleyball match.
"It was halfway between our house and Trimont, and she lost control on the gravel," said her mother, Melissa Tumbleson. "She was ejected and the vehicle rolled. A neighbor found her and called 911 and called us."
HER?CAUSE?— Taryn Tumbleson poses this week with the dozens of Operation: Christmas Child boxes packed by Temperance Lake Ridge residents.
Tumbleson suffered 10 broken ribs on one side, and one broken rib on the other. She also suffered a compound fracture in one of her vertebrae. Internally, she had a collapsed lung and a lacerated spleen. There were also ankle and wrist sprains, and scratches and cuts.
"The surgeons did an excellent job," Melissa said of a cut along Tumbleson's jaw-line that is now healing. "When she had school pictures, she was able to turn her head just enough that you couldn't see it."
Tumbleson spent six days hospitalized in Rochester. A month later, she is back at school part time, wears a brace she calls an "incubator" around her torso, and has a renewed belief in her faith.
"Each day gets so much better," Tumbleson said. "It's amazing what the power of prayer can do."
Many of Tumbleson's friends and family switched their Facebook profile pics to a turquoise blue block that says, "Keep Calm and Pray for Taryn." The outpouring of support didn't stop there.
"I received a signed volleyball from all the Fairmont volleyball girls," Tumbleson said. "I got flowers from Windom and Lake Crystal's team."
She also received a special call from the group of teens she had traveled with to the Philippines during the summer for Operation: Christmas Child.
"We were all on a conference call, and they prayed for me," she said. "Now we're making it a monthly thing. It was so good to be in touch with them and I could feel their support along with the community."
With all the gifts that were rolling in for Taryn, the idea came about to pay it forward.
"We were all thinking, just how many stuffed animals does Taryn really need?" Melissa said.
With Taryn's long-time support of Operation: Christmas Child, the answer was obvious.
"Instead of sending me gifts, we wanted people to spend the money on a box of crayons and put them in the drop off areas to collect," Tumbleson said. "We had six totes of donated items."
On Thursday, exactly one month after Tumbleson's crash, she and her family assembled the donated items with help from the residents at the Temperance Lake Ridge assisted-living facility in Sherburn.
"When we went to Sterling Drug to get some items, they heard about what we were doing and they also donated," said Temperance Lake Ridge director Lisa Lange. "We've had many people and places step forward."
The best part, according to the Tumbleson family, was having all the extra hands to help pack.
"This would've taken forever if we had to do it all ourselves," Tumbleson noted.
The family later counted 101 shoe-boxes that were packed at Temperance Lake Ridge on Thursday.
Local collections for Operation: Christmas Child will continue for the season until Nov. 18, and delivery to the distribution center in Minneapolis will occur Nov. 18-25.
For more information, log onto www.samaritanspurse.org