When one Manitoba family found itself thrown into “instant panic,” an act of kindness became a groundswell of support that has grabbed attention around the world.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed and humbled,” said Robert Harms, who farms soybeans on 500 acre near the southern Manitoba community of Snowflake.
“I’m kind of a private individual, I’m very independent, and I had to kind of set that aside and allow people to help.”
Just as harvest was getting going last week, Harms’s daughter, Morgan, was hit by a car near Gretna, where she is a Grade 12 student at a private Christian school.
On the evening of Sept. 30, Morgan went out for a run. When she didn’t return home, Harms got a call from the school telling him his daughter was missing and people were going out to look for her.
“That’s a phone call that no parent wants to receive. [It was] instant panic mode. My wife was packing clothes and she out the door in a matter of minutes,” Harms said.
Morgan was found shortly after Harms received the call. She was rushed first to hospital in Altona before being transferred to the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.
She had no broken bones, but suffered a severe concussion. The vehicle that hit her was long gone, according to Harms, and RCMP are investigating.
While his wife was with Morgan, Harms tried to focus on getting the harvest in. And that’s when his tiny community did something huge.
“We’re a faith-based family, and agriculture has a tight-knit community as well. So some of the guys that I went to church with got together and they said, ‘We need to come and combine,'” Harms said.
The initial plan was for a couple of people and a couple of combines to show up. But there was no holding back the deluge.
“It turned out we had seven combines, three grain carts, six trucks and 18 guys. And there were guys [later] that were like, ‘oh, I wish I’d have known, I would have been there as well,'” Harms said, noting the entire crop was combined in 4½ hours — something that would have taken him five or six days on his own.
“The support has been absolutely tremendous.”
The help made it possible for him to go to his daughter’s side as well.
Harms was so moved by what his friends and neighbours did that he posted about it on Twitter. Within two days, that tweet had nearly 55,000 likes and had been retweeted 4,400 times, as people found inspiration in it.
Among the nearly 800 comments were people expressing their prayers for Morgan, and gratitude for good news for a change.
A week ago our daughter went for a run She was hit by a vehicle. In HSC with head injuries. Her mother hardly left her all week. Yesterday friends and neighbours showed up and combined 500 ac of soybeans in 4.5 hrs. Tomorrow I get to bring her home I am overwhelmed <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Thanksgiving?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Thanksgiving</a> <a href=”https://t.co/wDPNVSGxKN”>pic.twitter.com/wDPNVSGxKN</a>
“I’m in Pennsylvania and the news needs feel good stories!” tweeted Jennif Epler. “The world would be a better place if more of us were helping and not hating one another!!”
Comments have come from across Canada, the U.S., the Philippines, Ireland, Scotland, England and “just all over the place,” said Harms.
While it’s a monumental example of community, it’s not uncommon for people in smaller communities to have each other’s backs, Harms said.
“This is not one random act of kindness. You can see it all over the place,” he said, adding that since his experience, others have shared similar stories with him.
“The agricultural community is absolutely tremendous that way. And church communities, that’s part of the deal there, too.”
Long road ahead
Morgan, who turns 17 on Monday, was discharged from the hospital on Thursday and is back at the family home in Snowflake.
“The doctor says, for the severity of the injuries she had, she’s doing very well. But we still have a long road ahead of us, for sure.”
As for the the person who hurt, then abandoned, his daughter, Harms refuses to dwell in anger.
“You have a choice to either forgive that person and move on, or to let it eat you up and mess you up and be a problem,” he said.
“So our family … including my daughter … have chosen to forgive that person and to move forward.”
RCMP looking for vehicle
On Friday, Pembina Valley RCMP released a description of a vehicle they’re looking for in connection with the hit and run: a silver crossover-style SUV or minivan with narrow tail lights that wrap around the side of the vehicle.
Police expect there to be visible damage on the passenger-side front bumper and along the side where the vehicle hit Morgan, though that “could be as minor as scraped paint, or there could be more significant damage,” RCMP said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Carman RCMP at 204-745-6760.
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