HIBBING — Eight-year-old Rose Sajevic was all smiles Monday when she saw her brand-new ramp for the first time.
“Whoa! … I love it,” she declared. “It’s amazing!”
The child, who broke both legs and is expected to use a wheelchair for several months after being hit by a FedEx truck June 23 while riding her bicycle near her family’s Hibbing home, also extended a big “thank you so much” to the volunteers who spent Saturday building the ramp in front of her house.
About a dozen men — most of them parishioners of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Virginia and few from Hibbing — worked for eight hours on Saturday to construct the ramp for “Rosie,” a little girl who was found praying at the scene after being struck.
Rosie’s mother, Teresa Sajevic, said by phone Tuesday, exactly one week after the late-morning accident, that the family can’t thank the volunteers enough.
Her daughter has “such severe breaks” to her legs, which are each in casts — one pink, one blue — that carrying Rosie up the steps of the family’s house would be difficult, Sajevic said, especially for her, since “I’m pregnant.”
The accident, and everything that followed, “happened so fast,” said the mom.
“It happened right by our house,” recalled Sajevic, who said she ran to the scene, where she saw Rosie on the ground “mangled and bloody” — but, also, praying.
Rosie was airlifted by a Life Link III medical helicopter to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth.
On Monday, she was released from the hospital.
On Tuesday, she was eating chicken nuggets from McDonald’s.
But while Rosie was being treated in Duluth, the Rev. “Father Brandon” Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit, contacted the family asking what could be done to help the little girl, and it was decided to build the ramp.
“We were in shock,” Sajevic said. The family attends St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Nashwauk. While “we are all Catholic and united in Christ that way, they don’t know us.”
The ramp will be a great help, she said. “It’s one more thing we don’t have to worry about,” especially since her husband, Sam, the sole-earner of the family, is currently laid off from his job due to COVID-19. Rosie has three siblings, with another on the way.
“They really took the reins,” Sajevic said of the church volunteers.
And the volunteers have taken it one step further — now working to install a new door at the top of the ramp and to reconfigure the entry so Rosie’s wheelchair can fit through and “our princess can get in the house” without being lifted.
Rosie is “very independent and strong” — always wanting to do things for herself, said her mom.
Pohaki Lumber Co., of Virginia, donated all of the lumber for the ramp. “We are so grateful they would do that for our little girl. Lumber is expensive,” Sajevic said.
Moravitz said Pohaki CEO Brandon Seppala immediately agreed to supply the materials, which were ready in a matter of hours.
“The ramp is so beautiful. It looks so nice,” Rosie’s mom noted. “They even took my flowers from the old deck (now connected to the ramp) and re-hung them and watered them.”
Tyrel Pollak, a Holy Spirit parishioner, said he and the other volunteers — “do-it-yourselfers” with various degrees of carpentry experience — were happy to help a family in need and to make life easier for a local child.
The group began the day with a prayer for Rosie lead by Moravitz, said volunteer Chris Bialke. “It was very moving.” The workers received updates on Rosie throughout the day. “That kept us going. It was very moving for all of us. It felt good to be there for a little girl and her parents,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”
Not to mention, Bialke said, Rosie is a child “full of faith,” evidenced by her own prayers following the incident.
“Faith has everything to do with it,” said volunteer Ross Havercamp. “I’m thankful Father Brandon gave me the opportunity” to assist. “I’m very grateful for all the guys who showed up.”
Throughout the day there was much “camaraderie,” he said.
Rosie “left us a cute little message,” Havercamp added. In a video, Rosie thanked the volunteers and wondered if the ramp would be strong enough for her little brothers, who she said might try to use it with their bikes. Sajevic can be heard on the video telling Roise the ramp is well-built and sturdy.
Moravitz said he simply organized the ramp-building; the parishioners did the work. “I am blown away once again by the people of Holy Spirit stepping up when there’s a need,” said the priest. Often people talk about doing good, but don’t always “step up and do it. … To see the humility and faith of all of them was just incredible.”
Helping others, especially those who are suffering, is one way “to put faith into practice” — to “be the hands and feet of Jesus” by assisting “our brothers and sisters in the Lord,” Moravitz said.
“During this time,” he said, “when there is so much division and chaos and confusion, we need to stay local and serve those who are in need rather than getting caught in big, global arguments that lose sight of our neighbors.”
The accident “hasn’t crushed Rosie’s spirit,” Sajevic said. “She is a remarkable little girl.” A bit “feisty,” too. “We are honored to be her parents. She taught us a lot about our faith, with her little self.”
“Rose is an incredible hero, the way she lives with gratitude through all this, the way she was praying when she was lying on the street hurting, the way she continues to smile in her suffering,” Moravitz said.
“She prayed for everyone who built the ramp,” Sajevic noted. “She wishes to hug and thank them — she’s a hugger.”
Moravitz said he hopes others will be inspired to “not just talk” about helping people, but to “get out and do it.”
“It was a neat experience. I hope others are inspired by this,” he said. “It makes you feel good.”
Rosie “has a thankful heart,” said her mom. “We are really blessed by that. We are so thankful she got out alive and is with us, smiling. We are lucky in so many ways.”
The family — and Rosie, of course — “hope in the future” to pay it forward, Sajevic added.