Family of boy killed while riding bike gifted holiday surprise in his memory

Dec 18, 2022, 10:30 PM | Updated: 10:42 pm

WEST JORDAN, Utah — The Mitchell family has a lot of reminders this holiday season of the one person they wish were here to celebrate with them.

Outside their West Jordan home, neighbors have set up a display called the ’12 Days of Eli,’ and each day they bring over a new sign to stake in the yard with a memory of Eli Mitchell.

Neighbors know the Mitchell home hasn’t been the same after the 13-year-old was hit and killed by a drunk driver while riding his bicycle back in April.

They know the holidays can be especially tough, without Eli to open presents under the Christmas tree.

Just up the street from the home Sunday, a truck and trailer followed by a few vehicles pulled up an park. A group gathered and opened the back door to the trailer, grabbing a large tarp.

People lined up on each side of the tarp to carry a huge object resting inside.

One of those people was Becky Yamasaki.

“We’re just hoping that it can bring a sense of peace and joy to Christmas,” she said, of what they were bringing up to the Mitchell family front doorsteps.

They rang the doorbell, and Lisa and Jeremy Mitchell answered.

“Holy moly!” Jeremy squealed.

“Hello!” Becky said. The entire group gave out a spirited, “Merry Christmas!”

The Mitchells weren’t expecting guests, and they definitely weren’t expecting what the guests brought with them.

Becky helped haul it downstairs to the basement. “You got it?” she asked as a couple others, including co-owner of Siegfried and Jensen Luke Peterson, carried the plastic-wrapped object.

They stood it upright, and took down the plastic to reveal a huge Christmas tree, decked out in a Harry Potter theme— which Eli loved.

It was the Festival of Trees tree made in his honor. Siegfried and Jensen purchased the tree, with the money going to Primary Children’s Hospital, and initially put it on display at their office.

But all along, the law firm planned to donate the tree back to the Mitchell family.

“It just feels like the right thing for us to do,” Luke said. “And to hopefully make their Christmas, and to make them happy. I think that’s what this time of year is all about.”

With help from Eli’s grandfather and grandmother Glendon and Toni Mitchell (who made sure the family was home for the delivery), the law firm and Festival of Trees made the surprise visit Sunday.

They set the tree up in the basement living room area, which Lisa explained was her son’s favorite hangout spot in the house.

Becky, who helped coordinate the delivery, serves on the Executive Board at Festival of Trees and is the large tree coordinator.

“We’re just thrilled,” Becky said, tearfully. “Thrilled to be able to bring this tree to Mitchell home, exactly where it needs to be.”

Emma Mitchell, Eli’s 16-year-old sister, said it makes her happy to see something so big in that spot for her brother.

“Having the tree there is kind of like a happy way to still remember him, but not to feel too sad every time I come down here,” she said.
Lisa said she plans to keep the tree up all year round to help remember Eli.
She and Jeremy expressed how grateful they are to have the tree in their home.
“There’s a lot of bad in the world but there’s so much good,” Lisa said. “And this has been an experience where we have just felt that from so many people and so many different angles, just all the good that’s still around us.”
Lisa stood next to Becky, looking at the tree.

“I’m so glad it’s here,” Becky said. “Me too,” Lisa replied. The two women hugged.

“It’s been good for us to be able to help you guys. This is awesome for us,” Becky said. “Thank you,” Lisa answered. “It’s beautiful. It’s exactly, exactly perfect.”

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Family of boy killed while riding bike gifted holiday surprise in his memory