As I was thinking about my niece, Chantel Balcerzak, my thoughts turned to just how sweet and caring she is. I knew what my feeling were concerning my niece, but I thought maybe it would be nice to hear things from a different perspective. I asked my grandniece, and Chantel’s daughter for some of her memories. I was not disappointed.

Siara Olsen, who is Chantel’s youngest child, told me that, as with many kids, one of the best parts about school for her, were the field trips the classes get to go on. All the students in the class got to bring a lunch from home to have for the trip. Chantel always made sure that their lunches on those days were special. She would get Lunchables, chips, and their favorite candy. These might have been things they wouldn’t have had otherwise, but Chantel wanted to make it special. I think Siara, and her brother Jake Harman would tell you that it was more than what was in the lunch, that made it special, it was the love she put into it too.

Chantel was a single mom for part of her children’s lives, and she didn’t want them to feel like they had missed out of time with their mom and the memories that would create, so on what became special nights, Chantel would declare that they were going to have a “Carpet Picnic.” The kids got to pick out their favorite junk foods like, Pigs in a Blanket, Totino’s pizza, and Wheat Thins with Cream Cheese. Chantel laid out a blanket on the floor, set out the food, and they ate dinner, while watching a special movie they had picked out. The memories of those picnics will stay with the kid all their lives, because, of the love she put into the evening.

Because Chantel was a single mom, the kids spend time each year with their dad in Louisiana. That was a hard time for Chantel, because she dearly loved her kids, and hated to be away from them. One year, she had a great idea. Just so you know, Chantel is an artist, and her work is great. So that year, when the kids came home from Louisiana, both of their bedrooms had been completely transformed. Chantel had decorated Siara’s room in a princess theme, and Jake’s room was dragons and knives. Siara tells me that they were amazing. I can imagine, because I have things in my home that Chantel has painted, so I know her talents. Still, when it came to her kids, well it was more than the paint, curtains, and decorations…it was the love their mom put into this sweet gift for their homecoming.

Like many in our family, the Black Hills is a special destination. We all love to go there, and many of us go every year. Chantel’s family is one of those for whom the annual 4th of July trip to South Dakota is a must. The family goes camping, and sight seeing, because as anyone who loves the Black Hills knows, you never see it all over there. Chantel cooked all the best foods on the campfire and everyone ate their fill. Then, Chantel and her husband Dave, paid the way for all of them to head over to the water park! Like everything that Chantel does, these trips were not just about going somewhere, they were about being with her beloved family, because it really is about how much she loves them.

Siara told me that she could go on and on about her mom, because she is her very best friend, and I know that is true. They are very much two of a kind. Chantel is a wonderful person, and she has dedicated her life to her family. Today is Chantel’s birthday. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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