COLOGNE, Minn. (WCCO) — In communities all around us, there is no shortage of good, hard-working families that just need a little help to get through tough times. So, in this Season of Hope, WCCO is connecting families in need with those who can help.

A family of 10 in Cologne, Minn. had one wish for one child, but can now be grateful for so much more.

Steve and his wife have eight kids. They moved to Cologne eight years ago when the economy was good and Steve had a solid job. But things changed.

“I ran my own business and I had to close the doors because of the economy,” said Steve. “And then I decided to get a different career change where I got laid off from that. And then I took a couple jobs that paid a lot less than normal.”

He was a home inspector and when the housing market collapsed, so did his safety net.

WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello sat down to talk about the ways the Salvation Army is helping, with things like propane to heat their home and clothes for the kids; and how this situation can happen to just about anyone.

“That’s why I chose that career,” he said. “Because I thought that was a pretty reliable career. But it happens.”

In fact, the Salvation Army will help around 30,000 people this holiday season. And they helped WCCO organize some special surprises for Steve and his children.

Papa Murphy’s gave them a certificate for free pizza for a year. Great Clips sent a $100 gift card for haircuts. They also got a family membership to the Science Museum of Minnesota, a family pass to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America and tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game. But that was just the start. On behalf of the Salvation Army, Target provided a $500 gift card and bags of toys from an Easy Bake Oven to a Nook, a portable DVD player, an iPod Nano and a Wii.

While the kids cracked open all the presents, WCCO told them there was one more big surprise for an 18-year-old girl who’d always been self-conscious about her smile. Bryanna will get free braces and orthodontic care provided by the Minnesota Dental Association and the Smiles Change Lives Program.

The Smiles Change Lives program is now serving low-income kids in the Minneapolis area. Click on the links below for more information and an application for low-cost, full orthodontic treatment.
Smiles Change Lives
Smiles Change Lives Application (PDF)


In communities all around us, there is no shortage of good, hard-working families that just need a little help to get through tough times. So, in this Season of Hope, WCCO is connecting families in need with those who can help. Fore information about charities you can donate to, click on the link below.
Season Of Hope: Find Ways To Give

Comments (58)
  1. Richard Cheese says:

    Not a good choice to have eight kids. It sad that some people put their WANTS above common sense. We as a life form need to greatly decrease our numbers if we want to save our selves.

    1. Mackey says:

      You volunteering?

      1. em0886 says:

        lol, good one!!!

    2. Reason for the Season says:

      You sound like Ebenezer Scrooge.


    3. jackactionhero says:

      Why isn’t it “a good choice” Richard?

  2. Hmmmm... says:

    God, no kidding. Not very responsible when it comes to our already overcrowded planet.

    1. jackactionhero says:

      How isn’t it responsible? Please be specific.

      1. get educated says:

        Our planet and population growth is getting out of hand. With all the medical advances people are living longer healthy lives. Add more people to the situation is getting out of hand. If every family had 2 or less children, we would start seeing a decrease in population. Until then, we just have to hope this planet and our country can handle all the people.

        1. jackactionhero says:

          By whose determination is the planet’s population growth “out of hand” exactly? And who are you to decide anybody should have 2 or fewer children? How ridiculous.

  3. Jo Jo says:

    Irresponsible to say the least, I agree with the posters above me.

    1. Cal says:

      Irresponsible? Explain to me how it is irresponsible to have economic hardships befall you. You are the Scrooge of 2011…congratulations

      1. em0886 says:

        THank you, I don’t think they are irresponsible, they love those kids and are doing what it takes to make ends meet. How were they supposed to know that this would happen to the economy?

    2. Reason for the Season says:

      You and Richard can have a Humbug Party.

  4. lauren says:

    Lavishing thousands of dollards of gifts on a family of 10 will just encourage them to be a family of 11!!

    1. jackactionhero says:

      Stupidest Comment of the Day Award Winner!

      Congratulations, Lauren!!!

  5. tracy says:

    Does the size of the family really matter? As you can read the family was stable and doing fine. Then like everything else in this economy “life” happened. I think it is a great story and it really shows how generous people can be.

  6. Nancy Aleshire says:

    Any family can suddenly be befallen upon hard times. It does not make any difference whether you have college degrees or what your profession is. Anyone can be a pink slip away from losing your home or apartment–it can happen no matter what size of the family. What I found refreshing about the story was they were genuinely appreciative for whatever gifts they received whether it was free orthodontic care, pizza, toys, or haircuts. In this age of “gimme, gimme, gimme” the parents have raised these kids right.

  7. This sure beats giving Zygi our money! says:

    I think it’s great! We all need a little help once in awhile. The number of children doesn’t matter at all, it’s not like they’re perpetual welfare recipients; they’re a nice family that are in a temporary downturn – like millions of others are right now.

    And as far as I know, the Salvation Army is one of the all around best charities that we’ve ever had and has one of the highest percentages of donations being passed along to those in need.

    God bless the Salvation Army!

    1. Yay Jesus' birthday, free stuff! says:

      I agree, the Salvation Army is a swell organization giving people things that they NEED and can’t have but things like Easy Bake Ovens, Nook’s, Portable DVD players, I-Pod Nanno’s, and Nintendo Wii’s are not necessities for the misfortunate.

      1. Fun Is Verboten! says:

        Yah, this trying to bring a little fun and joy into people’s lives thingie is overrated. Kids would much rather have a case of Ramen noodles and a pile of socks than toys and easy entertainment.

        Kids today are spoiled, Target should have donated a pile of logs and an axe so the youngsters could split wood all day, just like kids had to do in the 19th century when life was better.

  8. Grynch says:

    Having eight kids is a decision, not a misfortune that needs special attention and free handouts. It’s good to know they got all of that materialistic stuff though. I’m sure that made their Christmas very special because that’s what Christmas is all about right? Having stuff.

    1. jackactionhero says:

      For kids without “stuff” I think it fit the bill just fine. What would you have suggested?

  9. Rashid - MPLS says:

    Having 8 kids is a decision, and if the family falls into hard times they should be ridiculed and excoriated for their decisions. Why, because that is what Christmas is all about, pointing fingers and saying “Tough luck you idiots!”

    What is the cut-off for when a family deserves charity and kindness, because 8 kids is obviously over the line. 7 kids, 6, 5, 4,? What’s the number?

    1. Yea, tough luck, that's life. says:

      There is no cut off. Maybe that’s the problem. Not only do families like this deserve charity and kindness but they are also obligated to it at the expense of taxpayers and on occasions they even get their own reality shows. I donate to families like this every single paycheck.

      1. Rashid - MPLS says:

        Was this family down at the welfare office demanding freebies, or producing children to get a fatter welfare check every month? The things they received were donated by companies and organizations who took pity on them for their plight, and it didn’t cost you or me so much as a thin dime.

      2. jackactionhero says:

        “Not only do families like this deserve charity and kindness but they are also obligated to it at the expense of taxpayers”

        What taxpayer dollars were used for these folks? Please be specific.

  10. Why be Scrooge says:

    Really? Is any of the money, items, or services donated to this struggling family coming out of your pockets? If a dentist wants to donate his time or a company decides to give a small portion of its products to this family, why should anyone else care?

  11. Christmas Blessing says:

    This is a beautiful story. They are a beautiful family and my heart goes out to them. These economic times are tough but a close-knit loving family will make it through because they have each other. Those of you who would make nasty comments should be ashamed of yourselves. We are, praise God, still the free United States of America. I’m glad families with moral fortitude are having larger families because look at the mess our country is in and we need people with values coming up to help get us on track again.

  12. Happy they got some help says:

    You want a beggar to complain about? Try Zygi Wilf. He’s a billionaire who still wants YOUR money to help HIM make MORE MONEY.

    These people haven’t asked for anything except maybe a job for the father. Because of this story I will made an additional donation to the Salvation Army this year!

    I will happily support families like this one until our economy gets better and I’ll thank God that I’m able to do so.

  13. JD says:

    This is the sort of thing that company profit is intended for–helping out your neighbors when they are down on their luck. I feel comforted that not only individuals (i.e. the dentists that work with the Smiles Change Lives program), but also large companies like Target and Papa Murphy’s reach out to their communities like this. Thank you, WCCO, for helping this family and for letting us know about them!

    P.S. I think big families are _fantastic_. Both my parents came from families bigger than this one. Sometimes they struggled to make ends meet due to misfortune, but they just tightened their belts and worked all the harder. I know they had help from others once or twice, and now they are successful adults that give to others.

    1. LO says:

      The father in this story also came from a large family and the father supported them and continues to support them. They are not lacking for anything. This is a disgusting story if you know the family. Shame on them for taking what others need.

      1. No, shame on YOU says:

        You’re crazy! So the father is helping out his son and his son’s family and they aren’t lacking for anything? And you call that disgusting? Would you feel better if their family didn’t help them out and if they were cold and hungry? Would that make you feel better?

        The father helping them out keeps ten people off the welfare roles. And if they’re not lacking for anything, isn’t that the objective? You should be happy that someone else isn’t suffering. Shame on you.

        1. Know the Facts says:

          Back at ya’!!
          Did they ask the father of the story if he is willfully employed right now? He is. Were both parents working? No. Was their mortgage paid for them? Yes. Are the kids in college? Yes. Do the kids have their own means of transportation? Yes. No one should comment until they have the facts (which were not all told in this story). I am glad that you feel a Wii, an IPod and a Nook will keep them off welfare. Point is – Others are suffering far more than this family.

          1. Good for Grandpa says:

            Kudos to the grandfather!! It would have been nice for the family to openly decline the gifts for another family in need.

            1. jackactionhero says:


              Get a life, Negative Nancy.

  14. lets lay eggs says:

    Haven’t any of us learned from China’s mistakes?

  15. alan says:

    Having 8 kids introduces a lot of risk to the finances of any family who is not rich already. They gambled and lost, apparently. However, it’s not the kids fault, and any help that can be given should be given. Freely.

  16. Mommy of 4 says:

    I think this is a great story! I LOVE large families, and hope to have one myself someday. This is a hard working family who has hit hard times. The companies decided what to donate, they didn’t ask for the stuff!
    I really hope that they don’t read these comments and feel the hatred that is being said. What kind of people talk like that and then call themselves Christians? Apparently it’s ok to judge this family, but not your own hateful attitude! I think the only ones with a problem here are the ones being mean and disrespectful! Large families raise some of the best kids, because they’re not spoiled rotten. They have values, morals, respect, kindness, cooperation, independence, and love.
    Happy Holidays to the family and everyone else who is being supportive of families that are stuggling in these tough times. We also had hard times and now that we are doing well again, we are helping others as we can. That’s the American way!

    1. What? says:

      I have read through the posts and don’t see anyone specifying that they are a christian. So please don’t lump all christians in the “hater” catagory. Of course I may have missed a comment though so if there is one, please point it out to me and as Jackactionhero would say…….please be specific.

    2. Bob says:

      Four is a large family and enough stop being so selfish we’re already at 7 billion headed for 10 billion by 2050. Get your head out of the sand and stop thinking only about YOU.

      1. jackactionhero says:

        Hey everybody, Bob has decided for us all that 4 is actually the correct number of children to have. Everybody must adhere.

  17. charity says:

    Seriously, ten kids and you expect us to feel sorry for you. If they suffer a little, maybe other families will think twice before having an inappropriate number of kids. That said however, I have no problem with the charity coming from the private sector and not from tax revenue as long as my taxes are lowered.

  18. jackactionhero says:

    “Seriously, ten kids and you expect us to feel sorry for you.”

    First off, it’s 8 kids.

    Secondly, where did they state they expected people to feel sorry for them? Please be specific.

    1. charity for jackaction says:

      Yes 8 kids. If they are accepting charity, they expect people to feel sorry for them and to ignore the elephant in the room of making such poor choices. If you have 8 kids, that in and of itself is so egregious, we better never hear from you asking or accepting anything. Now let’s say they made the magic wealthy $250,000 number, should we still consider them rich?

      Jacactionhero if you defend the egregious actions of having that many kids and ever, even once accepting charity, you have a problem. Jacaction, how is the internet service in your section 8 housing? Presumably, subsidized and fast.

      1. jackactionhero says:

        You cannot demonstrate they are expecting anybody to feel anything.

        I have 5 kids, and have never lived in any Section 8 housing, and I’m not in the trailer park like you.

        You are suggesting that to show they don’t expect charity, that they should have turned the offerings away and refused them? LOL

        Get a grip on reality.

  19. confused says:

    Suddenly this is a story about having more than 2.4 kids. Sad.

  20. spread the wealth says:

    Gifts for the children are fine, but to say they went a little overboard is an understatement. SPREAD THE WEALTH. They could have helped out many more families by limiting the amount of things they gave to these children. Yes, we all have hard times now and then but it WAS their choice to have 8 children. Anyone would know that having 8 children is always going to be a bit of a struggle, regardless of the economy.

    1. anonymous says:

      My thoughts exactly. I saw this story and thought what about the other kids that go through the Salvation Army’s programs. They won’t be getting none of these high tech gadgets! Although some would probably love some of those items. Lets get real, this was a media ploy!

  21. ? says:

    Fiscal irresponsibility rewarded once again by our hand our society. Hopefully trojan can hand out a fat stack of condoms and someone can give their kids some sex ed so history doesn’t repeat itself.

  22. Someone Who Cares says:

    As a family member I want to point out that their decision to have 8 kids is no one’s business. Yes, the father has a father that had a large family he supported. The older kids go to college, work, and they bought their own cars. The father has worked 2 jobs since he started having children. They have taught their children about hard work. The religion of this family does not believe in birth control. They believe that God will provide and will not give you more than you can handle. Are you judging them for following their beliefs? If you are, God says judge not least ye be judged. Thank you to those that have been supported. If the father had not lost his job and his home business – Yes he worked a full time job and a business on the side to support this large family. He took another job with better insurance and got laid off. The housing market collapsed and his home inspection business tanked. This family has worked hard to be self-supported. And yes the kids will probably follow in the parents’ footsteps and have large families of their own as their beliefs and religion are important to them. This home is full of love and God that is what is important. I would like to thank WCCO, Target, & the Salvation Army for being there for my extended family. Thank you to those that defended the family. Merry Christmas and may God bless you one and all to have a very prosperous year even those that condemn.

    1. ! says:

      Oh and no one mentioned the fact that one of the children has been sick most of his life with seizures. That the medical bills were not helping this family with their finances. The whole situtaion and everything this family has gone through has not been discussed. It was a very nice thing that was done. I am upset that so many people are so negative and hateful. Walk a mile in their shoes first.

      1. Compassion with Reason says:

        Very well said and compassionate. Hard working, but not “needy”. Nice gesture, but not necessary. Wants vs Needs. We can all have sympathy for people less fortunate. There are many people that would love to walk in their shoes – to have a home, the opportunity for two jobs, the opportunity to attend college, vehicles, 8 kids and an extended family. Everyone works to be self-supportive and apparently the father has the background and know how to do so. Sounds like they have a good support network. Did they use it?.

        1. Paid Attention to the Details says:

          Apparently, it is overlooked that the father lost the second job and has had to take lessor paying jobs at this point. I am quite certain they did not ask for the gifts they recieved. If you watch the show one of the first things said is “A family wishing for a gift for one child.” This family has needs, but has been able to utilize the help out there. Maybe more people should try it and they would not be so angry. Yes, it is nice to have a large extended family, but that does not mean everyone in the family has money. Just because they have a house does not mean they are not struggling to keep it either. Obviously, that would make them needy. How do we know they are not on the verge of being homeless? Would it be better if these toys had been bought for someone who was homeless & couldn’t use them or maybe the thought is only food and clothing should be donated? I think WCCO and the other parties involved were just trying to make it a nice Christmas for a struggling family.

  23. Bill McGee says:

    This family makes over a $ 100,000 ,could you except those gifts knowing of the familys that will not even have a christmas because there out of work. These kids have snowmobiles ,4-wheelers, dirt bikes poor family what a joke. Karma will get you Steven vidmar, you should be ashamed, I’m ashamed even knowing you!!

  24. those in the know says:

    GO BILL!!! tell them how it is,,,we know the truth

  25. john says:

    Let’s get at the real subtext of this story – WCCO aired this b/c eight cute kids makes for good TV. If the journalist would have done a credible job I’m sure they could have found a family that makes less than 100,0000 a year and would be more worthy of charity. Ya think!! A good reporter/journalist would have asked the family if they feel conflicted about taking help when so many other family are literally without food, shelter and work!

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