Over the course of a person’s life, they will harbor a number of different hopes and dreams, such as starting a family of their own. Ream and Dakota Nelson knew that all too well, as the pair had seven children together. But following a tragic incident, Dakota suddenly had to take on the role of a single parent.
Residents of Ashton, Idaho, Dakota and Ream tied the knot in 2001, welcoming their first child into the world soon after. Another six kids then followed in the next few years, as the couple’s family continued to grow. Sadly, though, everything changed in the summer of 2018.
One day that July, Ream and Dakota were doing some jobs around the garage, enjoying each other’s company. Then, the dad of seven left for a brief period to tidy up outside their house. A few minutes later he came back, but nothing could prepare him for what happened next.
While Dakota was gone, Ream had a massive heart attack in the garage and collapsed on the ground. The 38-year-old mom then died a couple of months later, leaving her devastated family behind. However, in December 2018 a kind stranger decided to step up and help the widower ahead of Christmas.
For many of us, being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have. While the role may be challenging at times, there are few things better than helping your child through the early stages of their life. And given the hard work that comes with that, one kid might be enough for some.
However, there will be others who feel the need to add a few more faces to their family, putting their previous experiences to good use. Dakota and Ream were Nelson one such couple, as they continued to have children throughout their lengthy marriage. By 2018 the Ashton residents were the proud parents of seven kids.
Prior to that, though, Ream and Dakota both pursued a higher education, as they attended Brigham Young University–Idaho, better known as BYU-Idaho. From there, the latter would eventually take on a couple of positions to help support his growing family, one of which was a part-time teaching job at his local church.
So on that note, all appeared to be going well for Dakota and Ream, with the couple looking after their seven children. The mom in particular was really enjoying her role as a matriarch, guiding her kids at home. But unfortunately, their lives changed forever during the summer of 2018.
Following everything that happened, Ream’s younger sister Summer Alameel then felt the need to share the story online. Writing on the fundraising website GoFundMe, she recounted the details of that fateful day in July, and revealed a bit more about her beloved older sibling as well.
“One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to have Ream Nelson (Alameel) as a big sister,” Summer wrote. “For those of you who are lucky enough to know her, you know of her kindness, strength, sense of humor and love for others. Ream is a mother to seven amazing children…”
Summer continued, “[Ream’s] favorite job of all time, minus being the best mom, is coaching her volleyball girls. Her home is always open to anyone in need, even if that need is just for a bit of fun!” At that point, she went on to talk about the relationship her sister shared with Dakota.
According to Summer, Dakota and Ream were perfect for each other, as the pair both shared similar beliefs. In addition to that, the mom’s sibling also highlighted a couple of their characteristics, suggesting that’s why they were “a match made in heaven.” Following that introduction, Ream’s sister then delved into what happened over the summer.
Summer explained, “On July 11, 2018, tragedy struck – 38-year-old Ream suffered a major and completely unexpected heart attack. She and Dakota had been working – but mostly playing – together in their garage when Dakota went outside to put some tools away. Dakota returned within five minutes to find Ream lying on the floor blue and not breathing.”
Dakota acted quickly, as he began to perform chest compressions on his fallen wife. And while the dad continued to treat Ream in the garage, he asked one of their children to contact the emergency services. Before long, an ambulance arrived at the house to take her to a local medical facility.
Unfortunately, though, the situation didn’t look very promising at the time. Summer revealed, “[Ream’s] brain was without oxygen for more than 20 minutes. [It caused] a massive bleed that the doctors cannot explain and severe brain damage.” As a result of that, Ream found herself in a coma, but her condition was deemed “stable” by her physicians.
Summer, for her part, then shared Dakota’s reaction to what happened in her lengthy GoFundMe post. As it turned out, the father of seven wasn’t the first person to find Ream in the moments after the heart attack. Unsurprisingly, that only added to the shock of that horrible day at their house.
Dakota recalled, “It is hard to accurately describe in words what it is like to have found my beautiful wife, whom I have fallen in love with and grown closer to in our 17 years of marriage on the floor, eyes open and unresponsive with our three-year-old standing over her. Having our children witness this is unthinkable.”
Off the back of that, Summer touched upon how her sister had fared in the days after the heart attack. According to the hospital staff, Ream had a better chance of pulling through because of her relatively young age. But the process itself would be far from easy for the Ashton resident.
As Summer explained, “[The doctors] anticipate that the coma will last for three to six months. During that time, Ream will be transferred to a long-term care facility where she can receive the intensive care she needs. Her doctors remain hopeful that within one to two years of inpatient treatment she may see significant improvement, but [they] offer no guarantees for a full recovery.”
Furthermore, Summer went on to reveal why she’d started the GoFundMe page, noting one issue in particular. She wrote, “Ream is uninsured due to the health care crisis in Idaho. Like many Idahoans, Dakota works three jobs to provide for his family. The children have insurance, but Ream and Dakota do not.”
So with that in mind, Summer set a target of $250,000 on the fundraising page, as she looked to help her sister’s family out. And over the next couple of months, Ream’s sibling kept users informed of the situation via a number of updates. Sadly, however, one of those posts brought with it some tragic news in September 2018.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts and deepest sadness that we inform you that Ream Nelson passed away [on] September 23, 2018, at 3:45 p.m.,” Summer wrote on GoFundMe. “She left this life surrounded by her husband, children, mother, mother-in-law and siblings.”
Summer added, “We cannot choose how we go, but [Ream] went peacefully, surrounded by the people who loved her most in this world. Her children and Dakota are holding up remarkably – bolstered by their faith and the support of their community. Thank you all for the well wishes and condolences.”
In the months that followed, Dakota had a big job on his hands as he was now the sole provider for his seven children. The father continued to plug away in his various positions, ahead of a significant period for the family: Christmas, which would be the first one without Ream.
Given everything that had happened earlier that year, Dakota then received a remarkable surprise in December 2018. For some people, Secret Santa is a cherished activity held each Christmas, whereby they anonymously purchase a present for a particular member of their group. However, the website East Idaho News have added a twist to the tradition.
To help explain what was going on, reporter Nate Eaton laid out the plan in a special video in December 2018. He says, “[I’m coming] to you from Ashton today. We are continuing to give away a quarter of a million dollars from Secret Santa.” At this point, Nate looks back on Dakota’s heartbreaking story.
Then, after sharing those details, Nate talks about Dakota’s employment situation. The reporter continues, “Now he is a part-time seminary teacher with the LDS Church. He also has two other part-time jobs, and he’s doing the best he can to raise his kids.” From here, the reporter explains what will happen next.
Nate reveals that Dakota’s family has been selected to receive some of the aforementioned Secret Santa funds. Alongside $2,000 worth of gift cards, they were due to get an $8,000 check as well, helping them ahead of the holiday season. So with everything ready to go, the East Idaho News team sprang into action.
The video cuts to a shot of Nate approaching Dakota’s vehicle in a snowy car park, hoping to catch his attention. Once he does, the pair then touch upon Ream’s untimely passing back in the summer. And as the widower explains, the cause of the heart attack was still a mystery at that point, even after the post-mortem.
Following this conversation, Eaton pulls out a box containing the gift cards, before handing the check over to Dakota. As the dad looks at the figure, he slowly bursts into tears while holding one of his children. The reporter subsequently offers him an emotional hug in response, which brings the video to an end.
That East Idaho News video has since been shared on YouTube via the website’s official channel, drawing a big reaction on the internet. Amazingly, the post has earned over one million views and more than 20,000 likes, along with over 3,300 comments from online users.
Many of those messages were incredibly supportive of Dakota and the children, as they continue to press on in Ream’s absence. One user wrote in the comments section, “Such a strong and great dad. Respect. Seven children is such a big effort for a single man. Three part-time jobs? Bravo dad.”
A fellow YouTube user also had some kind words for Dakota, writing, “Wow… what a fabulous man. Decent husband, loving father and unfortunately lost his wife. So sad for his loss. Thank you Secret Santa, whoever you are. I am sure you have made that family financially more comfortable. [A] sad but lovely story.”
Dakota, for his part, decided that he wanted to thank the Secret Santa directly, so he wrote a letter a few days later. The heartfelt message was subsequently received by the anonymous donor, before it was published on the East Idaho News website. Unsurprisingly, the gesture had left him and his family stunned.
“It is hard to write this as I am at a total loss of words,” read Dakota’s letter. “There is no way for me to accurately convey how grateful we are for this kindness. As I was surprised with the gifts, I looked at my kids – who will remember this event forever as the best time they had in a hard time.”
Dakota’s touching message didn’t end there, though. The Ashton resident continued, “I have noticed that through this ordeal, we have been blessed to see kindness replace the pain of losing a loved one whom I had been married to for 17 years. My children have noted this, and have stated that they want to do the same for others.”
Dakota then offered up more words of thanks to the Secret Santa, which eventually brought the letter to a close. Then, the father of seven implored two of his children to write up their reaction – and much like him, they were truly appreciative of the festive gesture.
“Thank you so much for all the joy you brought to us,” wrote Micaiah Nelson. “I had basketball that day, but when my brother told me we were on the news, I was pretty confused. Then when my dad showed me the video I was holding back tears. This will probably be my best Christmas ever.”
The gratitude to the Secret Santa was also shared by Ammon Nelson, Dakota’s oldest child. They wrote, “I want you guys to understand how much this meant to my family, and how happy we are for this gift. It is so special to know that even our family in a small little town is being helped this Christmas season.”
As for Summer’s GoFundMe page, that’s continued to bring in a steady stream of donations since July 2018. At present, the total stands at over $55,000, with just under 650 people contributing to the fund. Ream’s sister also offered an update on Dakota and the family in July 2019, confirming that they were still doing well.