By Jeff Todd
RIDGWAY, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s an unthinkable tragedy, and a pain that no parent should feel. That’s how Randy and Jen Charrette of Ridgway describe their saga.
“I would say we’re doing well, one reason why is we keep living our life,” said Jen.
Randy and Jen had taken their two sons for an extended trip to Mexico in early 2013. They’d found a secure house outside of Puerto Vallarta, but say none of that mattered when their babysitter’s ex-boyfriend showed up at their house. Police say the man sexually assaulted 2-year-old Axel and then left the toddler in the pool to drown to death. The man and babysitter are awaiting trials for murder in Mexico.
“We are still moving on from it. I don’t think you ever recover from it,” Randy said.
The couple lives in Ridgway, and it’s where they’re centering their efforts now for the non-profit organization The Axel Project.
“We were getting a lot of donations and we didn’t want to keep the money personally we wanted to do something with it,” Jen said.
The Charrettes are working to give Strider balance bikes to toddlers and young children.
“Us being a cycling family, him growing up on his bike as soon as he could walk he was on his balance bike, we have so many memories of him on his bike or out on the trail having fun,” Randy said. “The goal of The Axel Project is to get kids on bikes. To start them young and get them on a path to a healthy lifestyle.”
For 2015, the Charrettes are hoping to get more Strider bikes into more Colorado elementary schools.
“We did a big donation, $2,500 in bikes, balance bikes, helmets and equipment,” Randy said about their first donation to Ridgway Elementary School. “This is our biggest donation to date. We’re funded almost 100 percent through donations.”
LINK: Axel Project
“The town welcomed us back with open arms and really took good care of us and this is kind of the program we’re kicking off this year, really kicking off working with schools and where better to start than our home town of ridgeway,” Randy said.
“Sometimes it is hard. It’s getting less and less hard,” Jen said about The Axel Project. “I don’t necessarily think that they’re Axel or that could have been Axel. Definitely when we first started out it was difficult thinking Axel should be here with us.”
“It’s rewarding to get out there and see kids happy and learning,” Jen said.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.