South Dakota Family Wins a Free Thanksgiving Dinner

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A South Dakota family was the winner of a face book Thanksgiving Dinner contest and received a $100 Wal-Mart gift card to cover the cost of their Thanksgiving. The Retzlaff family won the Thanksgiving Dinner Contest by submitting an essay to

South Dakota Family Wins a Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Mirrisa has been through a lot of trials in the past couple of years and I felt like she deserved a nice Thanksgiving dinner

A South Dakota family received a well-deserved Thanksgiving dinner by entering and winning the face book Thanksgiving Dinner Contest.

Mirrisa R. and her mentally disabled 5-year-old daughter Marlena just received a $100 Wal-Mart gift card to help provide her family with a quality feast during the Thanksgiving season.

Mirrisa and her daughter are currently shuffling back and forth between two apartments in South Dakota. They spend most of the time living at Mirrisa’s boyfriend Calvin’s apartment, but also occasionally live at Mirrisa’s younger sister Alysia’s apartment.

Mirrisa was nominated for the contest by her mother Velva, who submitted a short essay to the company hosting the contest, explaining the family situation.

“Mirrisa has been through a lot of trials in the past couple of years and I felt like she deserved a nice Thanksgiving dinner,” Velva said. “It will be nice for Mirrisa and all of us to have a great Thanksgiving dinner together.”

The $100 gift card was a complete surprise to Mirrisa and she is very grateful for her mother’s thoughtfulness.
“I’m so grateful for my mother nominated me for this contest,” Mirrisa said. “I’m just so grateful for the money and it will provide my family with a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

Mirrisa, 24, was born in South Dakota to Vietnam Veteran Rodney and Velva. She has endured many trials in her young life, but continues to keep a positive attitude and upbeat outlook on life.

At the age of 19, Mirrisa was married and gave birth to her beautiful daughter Marlena. A few years later, Mirrisa was caught in an abusive relationship that ultimately ended in a divorce. Mirrisa kept custody of her daughter Marlena.

Mirrisa’s mentally disabled daughter, who just turned five on Veterans Day Nov. 11th, requires extra time, attention and medical assistance. Mirrisa spends a lot of her efforts caring for the child and striving to pay for her expensive needs.

Marlena was not born with her disability, but was tragically injured while she was a small infant. When Marlena was 11 months old she went on a car ride with her paternal grandmother. Her grandmother unbuckled Marlena’s car seat while making a bottle for the infant and Marlena slipped out of her car and fell from a 3/4 ton pickup truck hitting the frontal lobe on her face and fracturing her skull. Since the accident, Marlena has been diagnosed with severe mental retardation and speech impediment.

Mirrisa and Marlena recently lost her mobile home which was sold on a contract for deed for a mere $3,800. Mirrisa has recently had some back complications and was limited in her ability to maintain the home.

“The mobile home needed some maintenance and I just physically could not do the work with my back problems,” Mirrisa said. “Right now I’m pretty frustrated because we cannot find a place to live.”

Shortly after she sold the mobile home, Mirrisa moved into an apartment for a very short stint. A month later, social security informed Mirrisa that her home was considered an asset making her ineligible for social security for her and her daughter Marlena. Consequently, Mirrisa and Marlena had to move out of the apartment because they could not afford rent payments.

Mirrisa and Marlena currently do not own a home as they have been going back and forth living with her boyfriend and her younger sister Alysia.

Mirrisa is currently five months pregnant with her second child and is striving to provide the best possible life for her children. Mirrisa and her boyfriend Calvin just recently found out they are having a little girl. The couple will name the baby girl Savannah.

“I am very excited for my second baby,” Mirrisa said. “I love being a mother and love my children more than anything.”

To make things harder, Mirrisa, Marlena, Velva and her granddaughter Sophia were all recently involved in a serious car wreck in January 2009. The family was returning home from the library and decided to take a detour to show the young girls some fire trucks at the local station. As they turned down a side street, a car coming the other way did not yield and t-boned the families car. Mirrisa tried to speed up several times so the car would miss them, but ultimately the other driver ended up turning the same direction. The cars smashed into each other directly hitting Mirrisa’s car just behind the driver side door.

In the accident, Mirrisa pulled several ligaments in her legs, ankles and back. Luckily all the other passengers came out of the accident with minimal injuries. Mirrisa went to the hospital and after x-rays and two MRI’s they found a herniated disc from the impact of the steering wheel.

She recently had back surgery in November 2009, and is still recovering from chronic pain caused by the accident. She still is unable to bend over and doctors recently put a plastic disc with two rods and screws into her back for support. After the surgery, the doctors found another disc below the one they originally had operated on had collapsed, due to results of the first surgery.

Mirrisa still has pain everyday in her back and legs, but the doctors can’t perform a second surgery until after her pregnancy. If they performed an abortion she would be able to have the surgery, but Mirrisa does not feel that is the right thing to do.

“I really feel that the Lord does not want me to have the surgery yet,” Mirrisa said. “I need to be able to take care of my child and hopefully I will fully recover and be relieved of some of my constant back pain.”

Mirrisa has spent a lot of time in the hospital due to her back surgery and still keeps a positive attitude and her faith in God and. She is very grateful for the support from her family and her boyfriend Calvin.

“My Faith in the Lord and my loving family get me through every day,” Mirrisa said. “My boyfriend Calvin has helped me a lot in the hospital and my daughter brings sunshine to my life every day!”

The Thanksgiving Dinner contest was organized and run by a Utah based military organization, The contest was run through face book where fans and friends of were encouraged to nominate families that were in need of a Thanksgiving dinner.

This is the second year has provided the Thanksgiving Dinner Contest. The owner of, Eric Kandell, was thrilled with this year’s entries and felt many families deserved the dinner.
“We received a lot of touching stories from families across the nation in need,” Kandell said. “Our company and employees have actually reached out and helped over 15-20 families receive Thanksgiving dinners this year.”
The company has given over $1,000 to help families like Mirrisa’s have a nice Thanksgiving dinner and holiday season.

“When we heard about Velva’s family nomination and particularly Mirrisa’s situation, we knew we wanted to help them out,” Kandell said. “We just hope the money can give their entire family a nice dinner and cover the entire cost of Thanksgiving.” also gave $100 to Velva and Rod for nominating the winning family. Velva’s money will be used for gas to help Mirrisa and her parents gather for Thanksgiving since they live nearly 410 miles apart.


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Craig Walton
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