After tragedy, Center Line family feels 'blessed to have Christmas together'
Center Line — It's been two weeks since Kaitlyn Jolly was able to remove the bandages on her face and body following a tragedy her family is still healing from.
Jolly, 26, said she was blessed "just to have the family together for Christmas" but a surprise on Tuesday brought holiday early to her three sons and helped lift some grief.
The city of Center Line and members of police and fire departments "adopted" the Jolly family for Christmas after Kaitlyn was injured in a domestic violence incident.
With lights and sirens on, crews traveled down Edward's Street on Tuesday to the Jolly home, where Santa surprised them in a vintage fire truck full of presents.
Police Officer Jeff Czarnecki knocked on Jolly's door in November, saying after seeing what the family had been through, city officials wanted to lend a hand.
They took Jolly and her mother shopping for toys and necessities and surprised her and three boys, Sirhon Ramsey Jr., 7; Sivhon Ramsey, 5; and 10-month-old Sirgo Ramsey, on Christmas Eve.
"They had no idea, no clue what was going on," Jolly said. "They saw the fire trucks and police lights and we rushed them out of the house saying, 'Hurry! Get your shoes on, go!' Their eyes were just undescribable ... their faces just lit up. They were super, super happy."
The family's lives changed in September during the episode of violence at the home. Jolly's fiancé, Sirhon Ramsey, the father of her boys, shot her in the head, neck and back before committing suicide in the home, police said.
She survived, spending a week in the hospital, and returned home in October.
"We are extremely blessed, not only because I'm still here and they still have their mother ... I don't use my story as a way to get help, but because people know God works and we're blessed that people choose to help, and that only makes me want to help others," she said.
Jolly, a welding inspector at Chrysler, has not returned to work because she is in physical therapy to regain motion in her left shoulder and back. She said she has relied on her family for help and was overjoyed that they got to witness the surprise Tuesday.
"We're a very close-knit family, with more than 20 of us just in the immediate family," said her sister, Kahania Jackson-McElroy, of Oak Park. "We are here for her and thank God for her life. To see them so extremely excited was just a blessing."
The city gives back to a Center Line family each year for the holidays. Czarnecki said it was a "no brainer" to decide who they would choose this year.
"... Look at her. She's an inspiration," said Czarnecki, who joined the department in May. "The kids were jumping for joy, and everyone worked hard to put this together. One of the officers dressed up as Santa and a lot of these people aren't working today, but chose to leave their families to do this for Katie and her kids. You don't find that anywhere."
Members of the Center Line Police Officers Association and Center Line Reserve Officers raised more than $1,300 for toys and essentials for Jolly's sons. They also gave her $250 to help cover other holiday expenses, said city manager Dennis Champine.
"I am so proud of what our public safety officers represent here in Center Line, going beyond protecting and serving our residents, but serving them beyond the call of duty," Champine said. "This makes me smile and reminds all of us that it isn’t just about doing a job by serving the public, it should be all public servants' mission to help others in need, especially when tragedy strikes."