Airdrie Facebook groups brings kids home for Christmas

Jenn Hickey-Wheeler and her partner Jeff Balesdent are finally reunited with their three girls after over three months of separation on Dec. 8.
Jenn Hickey-Wheeler and her partner Jeff Balesdent are finally reunited with their three girls after over three months of separation on Dec. 8.

Thanks to local Facebook groups Airdrie Moms and Airdrie Dads, one new Airdrie family had enough money raised on their behalf to fly their three kids from Nova Scotia to Airdrie for Christmas.

In the span of two hours on Nov. 23, Airdrie Moms and Airdrie Dads members Kim and Kody Miller managed to secure three free plane tickets for Hailey, 11, Eeva, 9, and Sage, 7, to come home for Christmas, and the Millers did all of this without their parents’ knowledge. Though the tickets were free of charge, $550 for the flights had to be raised to cover taxes on the tickets.

“Airdrie Moms is a huge community and I thought if I posted on there someone could help us out and point us in the right direction,” Kim Miller said.

“I got two responses and then my husband posted on Airdrie Dads and within minutes, there were dads saying, ‘What can we do?’”

The Millers met the children’s parents, Jenn Hickey-Wheeler and Jeff Balesdent through work, Kim said. Her husband manages Visions Electronics and hired Balesdent in October.

Nova Scotia transplants Hickey-Wheeler and her partner Balesdent moved to Airdrie in mid-September to make a life for themselves in a more prosperous province. Balesdent said the family didn’t have enough money to move the kids out right away, so they left them in the care of grandparents and ex-spouses.

“We moved to Alberta because of the dying economy (in Nova Scotia),” Balesdent said. “We had to sell everything we owned and 12 days later we had done the impossible and drove to Alberta.”

Balesdent said when they got here, his first item of business was finding employment.

“When I met Kody we made an instant connection,” Balesdent said. “We’re both dads who came from harder times. He was actually the one who interviewed me”

Within a month of Balesdent working at her husband’s store, Kim said her husband came home from work explaining the tough situation Balesdent was in and she said she had to act.

“I hadn’t seen my babies in three months, 97 days,” Balesdent said. “It was the hardest thing I ever did.”

Miller said only minutes after posting the plea for help on Facebook on Dec. 7, the offers of money, toys, furniture and plane tickets started.

WestJet Flight Attendant and Airdrie Dad’s group member Jay Meagher, who lives down the street from the Millers, told them via Facebook flying minors across the country is more complicated than getting ahold of a few tickets.

“He said someone has to fly with them, and then he said he had two buddy passes and another (WestJet employee) said he had one too and it just happened (Meagher) was going on holidays and he said he’d go get them,” Miller said.

Meagher said he donated his time and his own free flights because he’s a single dad who doesn’t know what it feels like not to have his kids home for Christmas, and frankly he said he doesn’t want to know.

“It’s something I can easily do,” Meagher said.

When the Millers finally made all the plans, secured all the tickets and arranged all the details, Miller said they decided that Dec. 1 was the time to invite the Hickey-Wheeler and Balesdent family — the whole family — over for Christmas dinner.

“It moved us to tears,” Balesdent said “I’m an emotional dude anyway but that was big one.”

Balesdent said the Miller’s timing was immaculate because he and Hickey-Wheeler had faced the facts that day: they didn’t have enough money to be with their kids during Christmas.

Hickey-Wheeler said she still can’t get the idea through her head that complete strangers were willing to go to this length for their family’s happiness.

“The amount of people giving love and support has been overwhelming and it’s quite insane actually,” she said.

Meagher picked up the girls from their home in New Glasgow, N.S., on Dec. 8 and brought them back to Airdrie where their parents were waiting for their arrival in tears and anticipation.

Balesdent said they’re going to take this time together and not register the kids into their new school until the New Year.

“(The Facebook groups) don’t even know who we are and they had a hand to offer,” Balesdent said. “They are very excited to call it home, which is exactly what it is. They’re home with us. This is now home.”


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