GREAT FALLS – The holidays are a time of joy, family, and celebration but for some, the season comes with a heavy heart, marked by memories of those who are no longer here.
In Great Falls, one family’s Christmastime traditions have forever changed. They truly embody the spirit of giving, to the surprise and delight of strangers.
The family of Ashley Marie Shell is turning their sorrow into joy by gifting turkeys to unsuspecting Great Falls residents who get pulled over for traffic violations.
34-year-old Ashley passed away on Christmas Day 2017 at 9:45 a.m. She had been diagnosed just over a month prior, on November 21, 2017, with stage 4 terminal breast cancer.
Ashley’s family said Christmas was her favorite time of year, and they hope to spread some joy and hope by honoring her memory with a special donation to the community.
Buffy Thompson, Ashley’s mother-in-law, is honoring Ashley’s memory by donating 30 turkeys to the Great Falls Police Department. Officers are handing out those turkeys instead of tickets on some traffic stops this holiday season.
“Christmas day for the rest of their lives is going to be a very monumental time in their life, so for them to be able to give back, and for us to be able to support that memory, you just can’t beat it,” said Great Falls Police Office Steve Scheer.
“You can see it brighten up their face, so it’s nice to make an impact on the community,” said Officer Michael Draper.
The Great Falls Police Department shared the following story about Ashley:
Ashley began feeling pain in October of 2017 and went to see medical doctors for the various pains. On November 21, 2017 doctors diagnosed her with Stage 4 Terminal Breast Cancer and was immediately admitted to the hospital, she was put through many tests, went into surgery on Thanksgiving Day and had her first dose of Chemotherapy a few days later. But, nothing could stop the cancer from spreading and taking over her body. It spread so fast and all through her bones.
For the last month of her life Ashley was in and out of the hospital and just finally wanted to go home for her last days. She wanted to be close to her family, especially the love of her life, Michael. In the final week of her life she was under the care of Peace Hospice while at home and passed away at 9:45 am on Christmas Day 2017.
While it is so hard on all of the family, they know she is now in peace and free of the pain from this horrible disease that ravished her body.
Ashley loved her family so much, loved her cats, and her friends. She loved living and working at Centene in Great Falls. Most especially, she loved traveling with her soul mate, Michael.
Thank you from Ashley’s family……Husband: Michael Shell; Parents: Mike and Dawn Sundine; In-Laws: Debbie (aka Buffy) and Larry Thompson. They wish to make Christmas time magical in Ashely’s memory by offering a brighter Christmas to several families in the Great Falls area.
-Shannon Newth reporting for MTN News