FAIRMONT - Bennett Hilbrands was waiting near the chair lift at the Highland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington on Wednesday afternoon, enjoying a ski trip given to him as a Christmas present from his parents.
The third-grader had been at it for hours. It was right after lunch, and while his parents finished up inside, he and his cousin rushed back out to go up the hill.
Out of nowhere, an out-of-control skier plowed into him, wrenching the boy's ski-bound legs around and shattering one.
What should have been a lovely family outing ended with an ambulance ride and the promise of weeks, if not months, in a wheelchair while Bennett recovers.
Bennett's parents, Rosemary and Eric Hilbrands of Fairmont, certainly didn't expect their vacation to end this way.
After a surgery at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis to have two pins put in his leg, Bennett will spend 2-3 months in casts, at least five weeks in a wheelchair, and he'll need another surgery in five months to remove the pins.
The Jackson Lions Club heard of the Hilbrands' plight and jumped in to help. Club members are known for helping as needed in their communities, and they knew exactly how to help this family.
Steve Henderson, a member of the Jackson club and Eric's co-worker at Ziegler Cat in Jackson, said his organization purchased a portable wheelchair ramp about 18 months ago, and they decided to install it at the Hilbrands' home.
The aluminum ramp can be configured in a number of ways, and it will help Bennett access his home, which is one level once inside.
Henderson said the Lions have used the ramp set-up six times since it was purchased, and since the recipient can use the ramp as long as it's needed, it hasn't spent much time in storage.
When Bennett is done with the ramp, the Lions will come and pick it up and bring it to the next person.
Pat Barnett, president of the group, said they are in the process of purchasing a second ramp since the first has been used so much.
Rosemary Hilbrands said having a child in a wheelchair unexpectedly has caused a few bumps - like figuring out any changes needed at his school and dealing with the disappointment of a little boy who can no longer play his beloved hockey this season.
But the Hilbrands know things could have been worse and are thankful they weren't.
"He is doing good," Rosemary said. "He wasn't at first, but he is now. It could have been worse."