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Wednesday, July 30, 2008 02:32 pm

In the wake of tragedy

Family, friends, and strangers reach out to aid Stuebs family

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Jason and Christina Stuebs and their children

Jason Stuebs grew up in a family so big, they would peel and mash an entire 5-pound bag of potatoes to serve at a meal. His big brother Dale Logerquist calls it "the Brady Bunch supersized — his, hers, and ours, and then our parents adopted on top of that."

Jason, 28, obviously enjoyed being part of a massive clan. He and his childhood sweetheart, Christina Adams, now 26, married in 2001 and within seven years had seven children — some of their own and some foster children, the youngest of whom they're in the process of adopting.

"They have the biggest hearts of anybody I know," says Penny Rutherford, Christina Stuebs' paternal aunt. "They have so much love inside of them for each other and for their children, they had room in their hearts and their home, and they just wanted to help."

Logerquist — himself a parent and foster parent with a total of seven children — doesn't distinguish the foster from the biological: "They're all your kids, no matter what," he says.

Tragedy struck the family last week when a sudden storm hit the Quad Cities-area campground where they were vacationing and sent a tree crashing onto their tent. Dustin Stuebs, age 4, died within a few hours at a nearby hospital; 9-month-old Savannah Stuebs suffered severe brain injuries and was removed from life support this week.

Initial media reports erroneously indicated that Jason and Christina were sleeping in one tent and the children were in another. Actually, the two oldest girls, ages 10 and 12, were in a pup tent next to a larger tent where the parents were sleeping with the five younger children. The inaccurate version was repeated by a wire service on July 28, in a follow-up story announcing Savannah's death.

To the family, such articles are annoying but unimportant in light of the enormity of their personal heartbreak. Logerquist says Jason and Christina arrived in Springfield on Monday but are staying with relatives and have been reluctant to return to their residence. They've made tentative plans to take another trip soon after the funeral is over.

"It's devastating for both of them, but you can see a glimpse of reality, that they're coming around. We're making sure that the family stays together," Logerquist says. "It may be time for them to start a new chapter in life."

The family will host a visitation today, July 31, 4-7 p.m. at Calvary Temple (1730 W. Jefferson St.). The funeral service, also at Calvary, will begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Because the Stuebses lack health insurance, several organizations have announced fundraisers to help with hospital bills. Mariah's Restaurant is hosting a fundraiser 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, and staff and parents from Ball Charter School, where Dustin attended preschool, have planned a fundraiser at Field House Pizza on Aug. 17. Moxie Massage (319 E. Monroe St.) is also donating proceeds from gift certificates and massage packages purchased Saturday to the family, and all Marine Bank locations are accepting donations on behalf of the Stuebs family.

Logerquist says his umpteen siblings are banding together to help the young couple cope with this crisis.

"We're all rallying around Jason right now, because he needs us. That's what you do," Logerquist says. "Your friends come and go, but you look at who's going to be with you the rest of your life — it's family."

Contact Dusty Rhodes at drhodes@illinoistimes.com.

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