Spencer Willis, left, and Patrick Ulrich with the new piano. | Courtesy Spencer Willis
REXBURG — A Rexburg family that had their U-Haul stolen with one of their most treasured possessions inside — an heirloom piano — was given a memorable musical gift from a local company.
Patrick Ulrich from Rexburg never thought he would win a grand piano from Teton Music in Ammon after he decided to enter a submission for a giveaway.
The theft in 2020:
He still remembers the day when he and his family were moving to Texas from California in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their belongings were stolen from them.
“Everybody was experiencing a globally traumatic event, and then to have this on top of that, it was just so violating. The hardest thing for my wife and I was watching how our young children were affected,” Ulrich recalls.
The Rexburg resident says among their belongings was a treasure they held close to them: a beloved piano. His family loves music, which has always been a part of their daily lives.
“When my wife and I got married in 2012, she inherited her great-grandmother’s piano. Even in our first weeks of marriage, we’ve always had a piano in our home, and that’s been very important to us,” Ulrich said.
Great-grandmother’s piano. | Courtesy Patrick Ulrich
He says they had packed up a U-Haul and towed it with the family vehicle when suddenly everything was stolen out of the hotel parking lot they were staying at. About a week or so later, he received a call from the San Antonio Police Department saying they had recovered the U-Haul.
It was tattered and nearly empty.
As he sifted through the garbage bags of broken decor, pillowcases and furniture, he found what he was looking for.
“I did find a little palm-sized chunk of the piano. It was a memento,” said Ulrich. “We kept it, and we actually have the U-Haul key as well. I think it’s important to remember the hardships and make sure that you are learning from those lessons.”
The palm-sized chunk of the piano. | Courtesy Patrick Ulrich
The U-Haul keys and part of the piano. | Courtesy Patrick Ulrich
Ulrich said they tried to keep motivated and held onto hope.
He and his family moved to Rexburg in 2021 and had begun to replace many of their lost items. The new home they moved into has a space reserved and waiting for a beautiful piano.
So when Ulrich saw an ad on social media recently for a piano giveaway from Teton Music in Ammon, he didn’t think too much of it. He didn’t think he could win. He decided to submit and tell his story of why the piano was important in his family’s life.
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As part of his submission, he wrote, “What a serendipitous occasion it would be to have our family chosen to receive such a remarkable instrument as a marked moment in our healing.”
Teton Music Grand Giveaway:
Teton Music Owner Spencer Willis said he was giving away two pianos: an upright piano and a baby grand piano. The pianos are expensive — over $15,000 each. One winner would be selected from individual and family submissions, and one winner would be selected from a church, school or community organization.
Willis told EastIdahoNews.com there are many reasons why he wanted to do the giveaway in eastern Idaho.
“I’m a byproduct of School District 91, and I saw the benefit and the investment that teachers and administrators played in my life and helping it make it accessible to learn and excel in music,” he said.
He explained he’s always wanted to be able to pay it forward after what others have done for him.
“Another thing that really solidified it for me in my mind was: I’ve watched the Secret Santa videos for years and my family and I always try to do something not just during the holidays but always be on the lookout for little things that we could do just like he’s encouraged,” Willis said.
Willis formed a committee for the giveaway, including news organizations such as EastIdahoNews.com, Idaho Falls Symphony representatives, and art councils to look at entries.
“As we got to know Patrick, they took a really negative situation — it’s something that set them back financially but also emotionally with having everything in their lives taken from them — but they had used this as a cornerstone and as a new chapter in their lives,” said Willis.
The winner and surprise:
Ulrich was ultimately picked as one of the winners to receive a grand piano.
“This is someone that is really well deserving. They had a plan that was well down the road on how they would still share music but this would help really fill that hole and accelerate the needs their family had,” Willis said.
On Saturday, Willis wanted to surprise Ulrich at his home in Rexburg. Willis had said he was interviewing finalists for the piano and that Ulrich was one of them.
“Spencer texted me: ‘I need to interview three finalists’…That was a lie. I didn’t know at the time!” Ulrich told EastIdahoNews.com, laughing.
In a video posted on YouTube of the surprise, Willis sat on a couch with Ulrich.
“He actually thinks that he is one of our finalists, but surprise! You are our winner for our family category!” Willis said in the video.
“Are you serious?!” Ulrich exclaimed.
Ulrich’s family was not there for the surprise at the time, so Ulrich filmed them later to get their reaction. Click here to watch.
He was incredibly grateful for the new piano that would be back in his family’s lives.
“This is just amazing. The blessings of others’ generosity. It’s just beautiful. It doesn’t even feel real sometimes,” Ulrich said. “We hope to, in some small way, pay it forward somehow. The biggest thank you to Spencer and the entire Teton Music family. We can’t wait for this to be a part of our family for generations!”
Patrick Ulrich and his family. | Courtesy Patrick Ulrich
The other winner for the church, school, or a community organization category was Skyline High School.
“Come to find out, my wife played the piano (at Skyline High School) almost 30 years ago when she was a student there,” Willis said in an email to EastIdahoNews.com. “I’m just so grateful that we’re able to be giving back to the community and schools that shaped us into who we are today. Life really does come full circle.”
The delivery of the piano at Skyline High School is planned for May 12.
The post After a U-Haul was stolen with a piano inside, family gets surprise from local business appeared first on East Idaho News.
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