The Turner Family in September 2016. (Back: Deserae, Matt, Babe, April, and Lizzy. Front: Matty and Kaycee) | Photo credit: Lauren Anderson

Schae Richards, community editor

April and Matt Turner experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when their then 14-year-old daughter, Deserae, went missing almost a year ago.

Deserae suffered a severe head injury, and is still recovering from its effects today; however, she continues to get stronger every day.

This last year was extraordinarily hard for the Turner family, and the people of Cache Valley have come together to help one of their own.

April and Matt agree that the community’s support is what has helped them get through this difficult time.

“The support has been overwhelming, helpful, comforting, and so appreciated,” April said. “Going through this has certainly been difficult and has turned our lives upside down, but we often say this would be so much harder without the support.”

From the moment Deserae went missing, people started looking for her and supporting the family.

The family has also received substantial funding from the community through fundraisers held by local schools, businesses, and individuals.

These events have included: 

A GoFundMe page started for the family in addition to an account at America First Credit Union.

An 11-year-old girl set a goal to raise $1,000 for the family at a hot cocoa stand.

Deserae’s friends sold pink and grey reminder bracelets at school and around town and gave the proceeds to the Turner family.

The volleyball team at Sky View High School volunteered their time at a bounce house for another fundraiser.

April and Matt also note the several donations received through Etsy shop sales, craft fairs, and other local functions, and the people who helped with these fundraisers.

“Deserae is literally a million-dollar girl,” April said. “The financial help has sustained us. Certainly, without it we would have sunk fast. We hold in high regard each of the donations. We know that we are so blessed to have these funds, and we are grateful that we can use these funds to care for her.”

During Deserae’s hospital stay, people came to visit the family to show their support and brought them comfort items. People also donated money for their family’s hotel rooms.

April said each of the hospital’s personnel took great care of Deserae and that they continue to support her through her journey.

For example, Deserae recently started a series of hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Cache Valley Hospital. She says her “favorite thing about going is being friends with and joking with the staff and feeling better after each treatment.”

K9’s Unleashed Academy LLC also helped obtain and train a service dog for Deserae.

“Des loves her puppy,” April said. “It brings her joy. Now she thinks about a future career breeding and training service dogs.”

While the family stayed with Deserae in the hospital, people from the community were taking care of things at the Turner residence.

People volunteered to help run the family’s daycare, so they could continue to have that source of income.

They helped care for the family’s home, finishing the basement and donating equipment for Deserae’s ongoing rehabilitation. They took care of their animals and yard, and brought the family dinners.

School teachers also helped support the family, putting in extra hours helping Deserae’s siblings with their homework and lending a listening ear.

The Turner Family in March 2017. (Back: Lizzy, Branden, Matt, and April. Front: Matty, Deserae, and Kaycee)

The Turner family continued to receive help from the community when Deserae came home.

“The ‘welcome home’ was amazing,” April said. “The police escort had me crying all the way through the Valley. People decorated and lined the streets to welcome Des home.”

Shortly after coming home, the family received a new vehicle from Murdock Hyundai of Logan to take Deserae to her follow-up doctor’s appointments.

Deserae has also been recognized throughout the community at local events, like the Cache Valley Cruise-In and Cache County Fair and Rodeo.

April, Matt, and the rest of the family are beyond grateful for the community’s support during their time of need.

“The love and support that came so swiftly and abundantly from the community sustained us through the worst time of our lives,” April said. “We know the community cares. Figuratively speaking we became the whole community’s family. We know, without a doubt, the community cares and that there are many good people who live in Cache Valley. People here are so generous and caring. We truly appreciate the support. We appreciate it all: the big help and the little help. We know that people gave from the heart.”

The Turner family has resided in Amalga for more than 15 years. Their family consists of Matt and April and their five children: Branden and his wife Kalynn, Lizzy, Deserae, Matty, and Kaycee.

“We refer to ourselves as T.E.A.M. Turner (Together Everyone Achieves More),” April said. “We have learned to work together to help all of us accomplish more.”

Like the rest of her family, Deserae loves animals and enjoys riding and showing her horses.

April described Deserae as being persistent when she was younger. She said this is even more true today.

“At times, Deserae is hard to parent because she is strong-willed and doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” April said. “She is tough mentally and physically. She has a sense of humor as she once said, ‘I can take a hit,’ or declares ‘I am tougher than a bullet.’”