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Editor’s Note: The following story is reprinted with permission from Laura Satterly with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

KENTUCKY (8/13/17) — On July 19, six weeks into their 6,000-mile trek across the United States, the Alspach family, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, found themselves, their pets and all their worldly possessions turned upside down on Interstate 275 in northern Kentucky. Having been struck from behind by a tractor trailer, the Alspachs were tossed about as their camper twisted and pushed their one-ton pick-up onto its side.

Amazingly, all four Alspachs – Shaun and his wife, Leah, and their two daughters, Mackenzie (11) and Olivia (9) – crawled unscathed from the toppled vehicle; the truck and camper, however, did not fare so well. What was supposed to have been the Alspachs' trip of a lifetime across the United States – as the family relocated from Calgary to Nova Scotia, Canada – suddenly appeared to be their worst nightmare.

Shock set in as the Alspachs saw their belongings scattered along the interstate and ditch, and they began to experience the sinking feeling of being friendless in a foreign country. Little did they know that new friends – generous and kind Kentuckians – would soon come alongside to offer an outpouring of support.

Immediately, citizens who had witnessed the crash stopped to help the family, pulling Leah and Mackenzie from the wreck. While a pediatric nurse examined both Alspach children, another citizen returned to the scene with refreshing Slurpees. Countless folks pitched in to unload the back of the truck, trying their best to salvage the family's possessions.

Officer Todd Amman with the Lakeside Park-Crestview Hills Police Authority was the first law enforcement officer to respond. Shaun needed to call his insurance company, but his phone had disappeared into the debris. Consoling and encouraging Shaun, Officer Amman provided his own cell phone for Shaun to use. Two hours later, Officer Amman continued to stand with Shaun in the ditch under the scorching sun as the insurance issues remained unresolved. Kindly reassuring Shaun, who repeatedly apologized for the lengthy call, Office Amman said, "That's okay; don't worry about it." 

truck vs alpachsArriving on the scene from the nearby Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) maintenance garage, Cory Huber, Superintendent II for the Kenton County maintenance crew, thought, "Oh, this doesn't look good."

Surprised that no one was seriously injured, Cory approached Shaun, who focused on his scattered belongings. Moved with compassion to help, Cory called members of his crew who were working a couple miles down the road. The crew joined efforts with citizens to gather strewn items from the roadway and ditch, but the Kenton County helping hand did not stop there. 

Along with the initial kindness demonstrated by crew members like Jerry Elliot, Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) III, who helped pick up pieces from the crash site, generosity continued to flow for days. The family needed a place to stay while they got their affairs in order, so Derek Thomas, HEO II, seeing the large cross Shaun wore around his neck, said, "I have a five-bedroom house. My boys are out now, so I have room for you and your family."

Although they had secured a place to stay for the evening, the Alspachs could not drive their wrecked truck. Kenton County crew member Stuart Stephens, HEO IV, offered to transport the family and their two dogs to Derek Thomas's house. Patiently, Stuart waited as Shaun and Leah pulled together clothes and toiletries from the pile of personal items. 

Derek and his wife, Cindy, had plans to visit one of their eight sons for several weeks in Alaska, but they entrusted their home to the Alspachs, a family they had known for only a few hours. Leaving for their trip, Derek told Shaun, "You can use our home as long as you need." For seven nights to follow, the Alspachs were blessed with a safe base of operations where they could rest, cook warm meals and find a way to get their lives back on track.

But the story of how good people help good people in their time of need doesn't end here.

The day after the crash, Kenton County crew members helped the Alspachs get their belongings out of the wrecked camper. Tom Kissenger, HEO I, transported the family's possessions to the Department of Highways maintenance barn for secure storage. One of Cindy Thomas's friends drove Shaun to the airport so he could rent a car.

Cory, the Kenton County Superintendent II who had called his crew to help the previous day, invited the Alspach family to his home to share a meal and to swim. Cory and his wife, Vickie, provided a fun, safe home the entirety of Saturday for the Alspach children while Shaun and Leah made phone calls and sorted through all their belongings, determining what needed to be boxed and shipped to Canada. Despite the Alspachs' best efforts, they could not get the help they needed from their insurance company while they remained stranded in Kentucky.

When Sunday arrived, the Alspachs worshiped at Nicholson Christian Church upon the invitation of Kenton County crew member Clint Goff, HEO III, who shared the Aspachs' needs with his church family. David Steele, a congregation member and an insurance attorney, volunteered his assistance in navigating the rough waters with the insurance companies. 

Another church member offered to pull a trailer with his truck all the way to Canada if the family's insurance company failed to respond. Later in the week, Nicholson Christian Church continued to bless the family by inviting Olivia to attend vacation Bible school while Shaun prepared for their departure and Leah and Mackenzie cleaned the Thomases' home and packed. 

Once the Alspachs organized their belongings for shipment to Canada, Kenton County crew member Jonathon Bradford, Superintendent I, helped coordinate efforts to have items shrink wrapped for transport. He even offered to fashion a custom skid to protect the family's four bicycles in their journey from Kentucky to Canada.

On Wednesday, July 26, one week after finding themselves stranded far from home, the family from Canada left Kentucky, continuing their trip through the United States back to their home country. Prior to encountering the unexpected hurdle in the road, the Alspachs had been traveling for three weeks, visiting destinations like Seattle, Mount St. Helens, Yellowstone Park, Colorado, Kansas City and Louisville. Days before the crash, they had enjoyed four nights at Big Bone Lick State Park in Union, Kentucky, and had visited the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.

They had planned to make stops in Ohio and New York before reaching their new home in Nova Scotia. The Alspachs were relocating to live closer to Leah's sister and to assist the local church and area Christian school through a ministry Shaun leads in Canada, Influencing Generations for Christ (IGC). The mission of IGC is to strengthen private Christian schools across the U.S. and Canada by coming alongside the people who serve in the schools.

Shaun, Leah, Mackenzie and Olivia – the Canadian family whose mission is to provide support – experienced firsthand what it means to be strengthened by Kentucky citizens who come alongside when support is needed most. 

"This story is not about us," said Shaun. "It's God's story, and he just put my family in it. The story is about the wonderful people that helped my family who was literally stranded and in need. If the people that we've met and who have selflessly stepped in to care for us are any representation of Kentucky and Kentuckians, then this is a very special state full of very genuine and caring people."

Expressing gratitude to God for protecting his family and thankfulness to the people of the Commonwealth, especially the Kenton County crew and their spouses, who served the Alspach family a helping of Kentucky kindness, Shaun said, "We can't wait to get back to this great state to see our new friends again. Maybe someday we can host them in Nova Scotia as a small token of appreciation. God bless everyone that came to our aid; we praise the Lord for you."

alpachs trailer

SurfKY News
Story, Photos Courtesy KYDOT

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