SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Drivers are on high alert this week as road conditions across KELOLAND remain treacherous.
A fatal collision near Harrisburg last week shows just how suddenly life can change from a crash.
Today family, friends and strangers are working to support Phil Torgerson who survived a collision with a train last Wednesday. His wife Jen and 12-year-old daughter Kaylee died in the crash less than a mile away from their home in Harrisburg.
“Phil lost his entire world in the blink of an eye, they were his everything,” family friend Lisa Gonzales said.
Lisa Gonzales has known Phil his whole life and was one of the first people to meet him at the hospital after Wednesday’s crash.
“Seeing him and knowing what he was going to have to go through was terribly heartbreaking,” Gonzales said.
Lisa says Jen and Phil were a perfect match.
“He found his person, not everyone is blessed with that, but Phil did find his person,” Gonzales said.
And together they created Kaylee, a spunky, smiley 12-year-old who uplifted everyone she knew.
“When our team was sharing more about Kaylee, every kid said how she encouraged them; when they were discouraged, she was the one to get them excited…she was always smiling,” Dakota Spirit owner Robin Fritsch said.
Kaylee has been a cheerleader with Dakota Spirit since the 1st grade and spent a lot of her life with her teammates.
“He knows that that team was important to her, she’s also got some great friends at Harrisburg that she was really close with and he is sad for them. Phil said, I wasn’t the only one to lose Jen and Kaylee,” Gonzales said.
“For many of these kids and families this is their first experience with death,” Fritsch said. “We’ve had to take care of each other and lift each other up just as Kaylee would do and her mother and father would do, they’re a wonderful, giving family.”
Kaylee’s Dakota Spirit family came together last Friday to share memories and begin the healing process.
“They said we need to do something for Phil, here’s this dad who just loved his family so much, we want to take care of him as well so the kids all made cards and made a blanket for him as well to wrap him up in love,” Fritsch said.
The day after the crash, several Dakota Spirit teams traveled to Wisconsin Dells to compete and all of them wore a specially made bow in Kaylee’s honor during the weekend competition.
“What better way to honor our teammate than to take action, that’s what we did that first night,” Fritsch said.
For those not at the competition, Dakota Spirit held a balloon release and special gathering in Kaylee’s honor, encouraging everyone to join in sharing Kaylee’s Kindness.
“Every child made a commitment to doing three acts of kindness,” Fritsch said. “That empowers kids to feel like they’ve done something, something good to remember their friend and also something to carry on her memory and the kind of person that she was.”
Now Phil and those close to him hope to carry on the challenge by raising funds to keep spreading Kaylee’s Kindness.”We would continue to come up with ideas and give back to the community in memory of Kaylee, not that we want Jen forgotten by any stretch, but as Phil’s sister said, Kaylee learned how to be Kaylee from somebody, ” Gonzales said. “By us doing Kaylee’s Kindness, Jen will be remembered as well.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Phil’s family; Gonzales says the majority of those donations will be put towards Kaylee’s Kindness, with more community service efforts to come in the future.
“The community support has been incredible. We have a lot of people reaching out asking how we can help, what can we drop off, what does Phil need?” Gonzales said. “Kaylee’s Kindness is a good way to do that and support him right now.”