LAKE STEVENS — Things that seemed like hardships to Jhade Tolman don’t look that way now.
Their home was a heated tractor shed behind her grandparents’ home off 20th Avenue SE. They weren’t homeless, but it had been humble living for three years, Tolman said. Drifting snow covered the door to their Honey Bucket in the storms last week.
She slept on the ground floor. Her son Tyeson climbed up through a kind of trapdoor to his room in a loft, where he played Fortnite, put stickers on the wall and hadn’t quite grown out of his stuffed animals.
“Don’t tell anybody,” Tolman said. “But he was still 11 years old.”
For a while, the single mom had thought of leaving Lake Stevens, for a real apartment. But then Tyeson would be giving up his trampoline, and the yard he loved to play in, and his friends at the elementary school 1,000 feet away. They wouldn’t be able to sit down for dinner every night with Tyeson’s great-grandparents.
They would be losing their Lake Stevens neighbors, too, who have come together to support the family in the past months.
Tyeson Kane died in January, days after a sledding accident east of the Cascades.
“At one time we started to feel, because our beautiful Lake Stevens had grown so big, that we had lost our small town close (knit) community and a sense of belonging, but boy were we wrong,” Tolman wrote in a thank you letter to her hometown.
One online fundraiser raised more than $21,000.
A pizza chain, MOD, donated 100 percent of its Lake Stevens sales to the family Jan. 14. People waited in line for hours.
Other local businesses chipped in, too, with food and donations.
A meal train calendar filled up for two months. Tolman joked that she’s gained weight from so much fettuccine Alfredo, an older son’s favorite dish. Classmates sent letters to the family. Tolman read all of them.
Flowers, balloons and the venue have been steeply discounted for a memorial this weekend at Hidden Meadows near Snohomish.
“There’s no way I would’ve been able to do something like this for him, (if) the community had not come together and helped,” Tolman said.
Generations on both sides of Tyeson’s family have lived in Lake Stevens. The woods south of 20th Avenue SE became their playground for building forts and riding bikes. In the yard along the trees, Tyeson and his best friend, a sixth-grader on the autism spectrum, would make believe for hours with toy swords and Nerf guns.
Tyeson looked up to his brother, Donavin, 17, a big kid who played football wearing No. 96. This year, Tyeson strapped on shoulder pads, too, for the Junior Gold team in the Lake Stevens Youth Football League. His mom’s new construction job gave her a schedule that let her take him to practice four nights a week. She’d show up in work clothes covered in concrete, paint or dirt, to watch Tyeson learn how to play linebacker.
“That was going to be his thing,” Tolman said. “His heart was there. He’d stand there next to his coach during the whole game saying: ‘Can I go in? Can I go in? Can I go in?’ ”
In one of the last games of the year, a bigger kid stomped his cleat, Tolman said. It broke his foot, but Tyeson stayed on the field through the fourth quarter, not realizing how bad it was hurt until later. The next game, he watched from the sidelines on crutches, wearing No. 96.
He took a trip in late December to his grandmother’s home in Pateros, where the Methow River meets the Columbia.
The morning after Christmas, a friend woke up Tyeson. It was snowing in the town of 700, where there are no stoplights and no supermarkets. The boys took turns climbing the quarter-mile hill on Eveline Street. One would stay at the bottom to watch for cars. The other boy had to use the bathroom around 10 a.m., Tolman said.
Tyeson climbed through the snow. His mom stepped outside.
“He saw me coming out, and so he went,” Tolman said.
He sledded east. A northbound Ford F-350 had crossed most of the way through the intersection with Warren Avenue when the child went underneath.
“There was no way that anybody could’ve seen anything, the way the houses are, and the way that the trees are on the road,” Tolman said. “It was absolutely nothing but a tragic accident.”
A blizzard slowed the long ambulance ride. It’s 150 miles to Spokane. They slid around in the back, never topping 45 mph, Tolman said. Hours later they were at a hospital. Tyeson lived another six days.
Pressure on his brain was about four times normal and spiking at times, his mother said. She put the decision in Tyeson’s hands.
“After going through the MRI, I went in and I started praying with Tyeson,” she said. “Telling him, ‘This is on you, don’t hang on for me.’ And he showed no signs. He didn’t move. … I got to sing him to sleep. It was very quick. They let me hold him.”
He died New Year’s Day.
At night when Tolman couldn’t sleep, she’d scroll through Facebook and put hearts next to people’s memories of her son.
“It’s really beautiful how one little boy has drawn the whole community together,” Tolman said. “It really does help you heal.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; email@example.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.