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Forever changed: Family lives on after tragic loss

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MONTGOMERY, Minn. (KTTC) --  It's been seven months since a head-on crash in Montgomery, Minnesota killed four people.

Two, were friends in their 20s.
The other two, an 11-year-old and her stepfather on their way home from the homecoming football game.

Doreen Hulgan is back at Most Holy Redeemer School. 

"They were excited,"
said Hulgan. "They've been wanting me to come sub for a long time."

She's substitute teaching in her daughter's classroom.  
Except Mary Urtuzuastegui, fondly known as "Molly" isn't there.
The little girl known for her bright smile and joyful spirit now rests in Calvary Cemetery, just miles from the scene of the accident that ended the lives of she and her stepfather.

"Well, we lost half our family. 
When it hurts, it's unimaginable. I can't even describe it," said Hulgan. 
We first met Doreen Hulgan in November at Hearts of Hope Grief Camp in Danbury, Wisconsin. 

"It was so fresh and so raw, it was only probably six weeks after the accident," she said. 

Six months later, that aching wound is starting to heal.     

"Things are kind of starting to get back to normal now," she said. "Normal meaning we're getting back to our activities, grades are coming back up."

But her sons, Will and Jack, just 14 and nine, wanted to go back to the Hearts of Hope Grief Camp. 
So, back they went. 

"Sometimes they come back because they just need a little bit of support and guidance," said Jenny Hoff, a director at the camp. 

The camp is sponsored by funeral directors like Jenny Hoff of St. Charles. Hearts of Hope is a retreat from school, work, chores, phones and Facebook to focus on feelings. 

"Of course we do some crying, but we do a lot of laughing, we do a lot of playing," said Hoff. "There's a lot of fun associated with camp."

You can see it in their faces. These families are finding support in those who understand, and breaking down walls by climbing them. 

 "Grief has a lot of energy to it, and if you don't get the opportunity to burn that energy, you just feel like you're on pins and needles and can't sit still," she said. 

Back in Montgomery, Doreen is turning that energy into agriculture. 

"I decided to keep the farm," Hulgan said. "There is something amazingly healing and freeing about nature."

Doreen and her family moved to Minnesota three years ago, and from scratch they built the Hulgan House Heritage Farm, with big plans for the future together. 

This summer, Doreen and her boys plan to manage the farm themselves, and class will go on, too, with reminders of their lost classmate not far away.

"They each had one of these necklaces, and they gave me one and said 'This one's Mary's,'" Hulgan said as she held a colorful necklace given to her by one of the girls at school.

Doreen and her family have found the peace in the Minnesota earth and the comfort in camp, as they adjust to life without two loved ones.  

She says with a smile, 
"I am different, I am changed, I am forever changed."

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