Minnesota man uses misfit Christmas trees to bring joy to sick wife

DAKOTA, Minn. (WKBT) – Christmas day has come and gone, but the spirit of Christmas in Chuck and Kandy Sonnek’s home is a year-round commitment.

We believe that the Christmas spirit lives in everyone right here (in the heart), Chuck Sonnek said. That’s important to share with the people you love.

Sonnek said a positive attitude can do wonders for the obstacles one might face. The year 1986 was when Kandy’s health took a turn. Now her only way to move from one place to the next is by using a power wheelchair.

It’s a wheelchair she places in front of a window every morning.

You never get tired of anything Mother Nature blesses us with, wherever you are, Chuck Sonnek said.

Their backyard is a hangout that’s not just for the birds.

We have turkeys and deer, squirrels and rabbits, he said.

Rabbits are Kandy’s favorite.

We’ve seen them come running out of one hutch over to the other and hop over each other, Kandy Sonnek said. It’s so cute.

Chuck Sonnek has even seen the very top of the Southeastern Minnesota food chain, a black bear.

“I blinked and I said, ‘That’s not what I saw.’ It was what I saw, because it ran into the woods,” he said.

The wildlife they see was made possible through an idea Chuck had 20 years ago.

“It’s been well worth the effort,” he said.

It was an idea straight out of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” taking misfit Trees destined for the landfill and giving them a new purpose. Chuck has been adding to the memories.

“One year when there was no snow at Thanksgiving, we brought home 175 trees,” he said.

Each year he puts the trees in his back yard, adding a new layer each year, providing shelter for rabbits and wildlife for his love’s eyes to see.

“We are still living the dream we had when we were teenagers and falling in love,” he said.

As Linus said, “They’re not bad little trees. Maybe they just need a little love.”

They have love from two people whose love for each other has stood the test.

“Forty-six years on Sunday,” Chuck Sonnek said. “She’s still my sweetie and I’m still lucky to have her in my life.

“I am lucky too,” Kandy Sonnek said.

The trees themselves are not the medicine. The love behind each one is what creates the perfect prescription.

Chuck and Candy said nature has helped keep their spirits high, despite her challenges with multiple sclerosis. Besides the trees, they have planted 40 acres of prairie grass to help restore bee and butterfly habitat, something that is important to each of them.