SPARTA, Mich. — The Bjorkman family has managed to turn their struggle and unimaginable loss into an opportunity to give back to other families in similar situations.
In 2008, the Bjorkmans welcomed their son Zephen into the world, but he was born with half of a heart. The condition meant the family, including their two young daughters at the time, was forced to spend several weeks at the hospital. Sara Bjorkman says she quickly realized the hospital and waiting rooms where they were spending a good chunk of their time didn't have toys and games to keep her children occupied.
"They were back and forth to the hospital, and we had these huge bags to carry back and forth to make sure they had things to do," she said, "and I think as a parent, when you have one child in the hospital and others at home, when they come [to the hospital], that should be the least of your worries.”
Little Zephen died just a few months after he was born. But it wasn't long before the family decided to donate to area hospitals to pay it forward to other families.
Sara said Zephen's short life touched other's lives. “I think he made an impact, and I want my others kids to make that same impact,” Sara said. “We felt this was the best way to honor him.”
The year marks the eighth year in a row the Bjorkmans are collecting items to donate, and they're doing it all on their own.
“I was very proud of her for taking something so sad and making it so positive," said Deb Hull, Sara's mother.
The Bjorkmans now have three daughters, and they collect the toys and items in a year-round shopping hunt to find the deals on the best toys.
“It means a lot," said Kendyl Bjorkman. "We want to make other kids in the hospital happy, so they can have something we didn’t have."
The family said they plan to deliver the toys this year to Spectrum Hospital shortly after Christmas.