By Beckie Evans
Joel and Heidi have a unique love story, defying the odds by meeting online and creating a wonderful family full of real life adventure.
Heidi is a Teacher on Call and Children’s Author/Singer Songwriter. She earned a scholarship to play basketball in University, but an injury in her second year led her to pick up her guitar and start writing songs. She has now developed a program called “Songs & Stories with Heidi” - where she goes into elementary schools and reads her stories, sings her songs, and has conversations with kids about failure, BIG feelings, life’s ups AND downs, and being yourself. Heidi also started writing a weekly letter called “Hope Notes” after she observed so many people struggling with discouragement during and after the Pandemic. Every Wednesday she delivers a dose of gritty honesty and real encouragement to her blog and email list.
Her husband, Joel, owns and operates Integrity Junk Removal here in Abbotsford. He attended the school of hard knocks and after growing up in foster care, now has a Master’s Degree in overcoming. At one point, he lived with his grandparents and learned the value of hard work and a good deal. His grandpa often boasted of his ultimate finds at Value Village by combining his Senior’s discount on colored tag mark down day with his Seniors validated parking pass. This made an impact on Joel, and he does his best with his Junk Removal company to respect the value of things by recycling, donating and reusing as many items as possible. He’s even started a business called “Second Time Around” where he’s teamed up with a single mom to sell items from junk removal jobs on Facebook Marketplace. In addition to supporting the single mom, some of the money has been used to support orphanages in Kenya and Mexico.
Joel is currently doing a “Ball2van Challenge” - he started with a hockey ball and he’s hoping to trade up to a 2016 Honda Odyssey - inspired by Kyle McDonald (who traded a red paperclip all the way up to a house), and Ryan Trahan, a YouTuber who does all sorts of fun trading challenges. Joel is a long time hockey enthusiast - his highlight has been participating in the “Hockey Marathon of Hope '' here in Abbotsford for the last ten years. Joel and Heidi are also avid Canucks fans. Their hearts are a bit hesitant to hope, but they are still actively cheering (or crying) during every game with jerseys donned - occasionally watching a Canucks game in-person.
The Karlssons have four kids. Two boys, and two girls. Both boys have autism. This has profoundly changed both Heidi and Joel’s understanding and philosophies on parenting. It’s been as rewarding as it’s been difficult.
Their oldest son (the one with black and blue hair!) loves movies and reading. He can get lost in a book series for weeks on end - as evidenced by the name he gave his cat: Lemony Snicket. He loves to go to the skate park and drop down into the bowl and show off his tail whip on the way out. Their second oldest, a beautiful red headed, freckle faced young man, has a Rainbow Loom Business called “Happy Loom.” He creates made-to-order rainbow loom necklaces and bracelets. His charming smile and outgoing personality helps him make a lot of sales (and new friends) so that he can go back to the store and buy more Rainbow Loom elastics. The girls love drawing. Their 12 year old, who just dyed her hair platinum blonde and chose to don elf ears for family photos, will read, draw, and play volleyball all day and is super excited to take the babysitting course and start helping care for kids. Their 10 year old is an avid climber and was just recently granted her wish of having a rock climbing wall installed in her bedroom. She joined her school's soccer club this year and really enjoyed it, but her true love is her cat, Precious. Or any cat. Or any animal for that matter. She just loves animals. The whole family enjoys music, so between drum lessons, piano, the guitar and ukulele, as well as the karaoke microphone they just bought, it’s pretty loud at the Karlssons.
They love living close to their kid’s school and enjoy that 10 minute walk each day (unless it’s pouring rain). Heidi’s parents live in their basement suite - they appreciate having family close by. Joel and the neighbor directly behind them can lean on the fence and chat for hours. Their home is built on what used to be a Christmas tree farm, so while sitting outside on their deck they are filled with gratitude for the trees, birds, and squirrels and beauty that surrounds them.
This family makes the most of all the family-friendly events that Abbotsford has to offer. They list a multitude of activities as favorites they look forward to. They participate each year in the Canada Day Parade with Joel’s Junk Removal Company. They love the fireworks, the Christmas tree lighting downtown, the Agrifair, especially the Demolition Derby, Abbotsford Canucks games, and swimming at MRC. They go for lots of walks on the Discovery Trail, and enjoy fishing at Mill Lake and Willband Creek Park. They particularly enjoy it when the church nearby hosts “Trunk or Treat” events, Christmas petting zoos, and more. The kids often make crafts and sell them door to door in their neighborhood. Trick-or-treating is another highlight for this family - they know exactly which neighbors hand out the biggest and best full-sized chocolate bars and make sure they target those homes as they travel the neighborhood.
The Karlssons do their best to make the most of every day, navigating life’s ups AND downs, creating memories of laughter and fun while they grow and learn together, and are grateful for the activity options Abbotsford gives its residents.