Big enough to give

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Tuesday, December 23, 2003 9:00pm
  • Local News

Nicky Scheldt wants a Bionicle Lego action figure for Christmas. He’s so excited for Santa to come he jumps up and down at the thought.

Nicky is 5. Like most kids his age this time of year, he can’t wait.

In some ways, Nicky isn’t like most children. I know because I have a 5-year-old boy. Mine isn’t spending these last hours before reindeer fly thinking of ways to help other people.

"I would say Nicky is probably our youngest donor," said Connie Wittren, director of development for Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County.

Wittren was so touched by the Everett boy’s gift of $20 to the Hospice program she wanted to share his story. "We’ve had teenagers who lost friends make a donation, but never this age."

Hospice care involves professionals, volunteers and family in improving the quality of patients’ final days. Providence Hospice offers counseling and bereavement services to families before and after a death.

Death ought not to be on any 5-year-old’s mind, not in this or any other season. Life doesn’t always cooperate with what should and shouldn’t be.

In October, Nicky lost his 6-month-old half-brother to sudden infant death syndrome. Recently, another family member suffered a miscarriage.

"Nicky would talk about how their spirit left their body and went to heaven," said Peter Scheldt.

Scheldt and his wife Donna, who are in their 50s, adopted Nicky when he was an infant. The boy is their daughter’s biological child.

"It was the best thing for Nicky. He’s a precious child," said Donna Scheldt. "He’s a unique little individual. He loves to give. He thinks of others all the time."

The 5-year-old happened to be with his father — he calls him "Poppy" — the other day when Peter Scheldt needed a blood test at Providence Everett Medical Center’s Pacific campus.

Nicky was intrigued by the holiday trees and wreaths in the lobby. Signs and envelopes there explain the Light Up a Life fund-raiser.

People make donations to the Hospice program in memory of loved ones who have died. Gifts of $20 are for lights, $250 for wreaths, and $500 and $1,000 for trees at the hospital’s Pacific and Colby campuses.

When Nicky’s father read him the details, the boy was adamant. He wanted to donate his own $20 bill.

"I had $29 and I wanted to give some money back, for my auntie," Nicky said Monday when I met him in the hospital lobby. The aunt, his parents’ youngest daughter, had a miscarriage 12 weeks into her pregnancy.

At the hospital with his father, Nicky right away started filling out the donation envelope, using a name he had given the unborn baby his aunt lost. Certain it would have been a boy, he called him "Zakr."

Wittren shared Nicky’s envelope, with the "In Honor of" spot filled in with the unmistakable scrawl of a 5-year-old. "Zakr," it says.

Peter Scheldt, who works for Boeing, said his son insisted on going home and getting the $20 bill.

"I was trying to talk him out of it," said Scheldt, shaking his head.

"Nicky had a $20 bill, $5 and four one-dollar bills. He understands currency. He just decided he wanted to give the money," said Donna Scheldt, who home-schools her son.

On Monday, I asked Nicky a simple question. Why did he donate his $20?

"On Christmas," he said, "you should give away something really special so that someone else can have it."

"I think Nicky is one of our angels," said Wittren, who presented the boy with a Hospice angel pin.

His father agrees. Nicky is a blessing. "It wasn’t something we planned on, but we get a second chance to be parents," Peter Scheldt said.

"We felt that God touched us," his wife added. "God touched us and said Peter and Donna are not through parenting."

What a gift that is.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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