No parent wants to hear that his or her child has cancer, but that was the diagnosis for Lucas Nelson, age 12, on Aug. 25, 2018.
His parents, Sue Nelson— Dakota Conference superintendent of education—and Loren Nelson III—Dakota Conference VP of administration and youth director—were enjoying a respite from a busy camp season at Lucas’ grandparents. Toward the end of the summer they noticed he had become listless, separating from the many activities he once enjoyed, to spend time in his own cabin. It had been a long summer in a series of many long summers, so they thought perhaps Lucas was tired of the whole process—just wanting some personal time. At the grandparents’ home, however, it became more noticeable that he had no energy. Their worst fears were confirmed with the prognosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Thus began a year of intense treatments: chemotherapy, bone marrow extraction, abnormal weight loss, fevers, extreme fatigue, extended hospital stays and intense pain. His distractions were video games with friends around the country and Legos. He could no longer attend school, but fortunately was ahead in his studies. Isolation became his habitation to avoid infection.
Friends and family rallied to offer prayers and support from a distance. Jennifer Turk, a close friend of Sue’s, heard of Lucas and his family’s desire to boost Lucas’ courage by helping others through his ordeal, and she offered an idea.
Turk knew that Lucas loved Legos. With the Christmas season approaching, she reasoned, Why not put Legos into the hands of orphaned children in Lucas’ honor? Thus began Lucas’ Legos for Kids.
In one and a half months, over 30 pounds of Legos were collected. Turk and other contributors shipped the collected Legos to International Children’s Care in Vancouver, Washington. In January of 2019, the first Lego shipment traveled with Sharon Fleck, ICC children’s services director, to the Las Palmas Children’s Village in the Dominican Republic to children who had never played with Legos. Sue and Jennifer were excited that the Legos were delivered to that specific orphanage, as they had been there on a mission trip together while in high school. “It was fun to see the blessings come full circle,” said Sue.
In addition to the Legos for Kids program, Lucas was also visited while he was in the hospital by volunteers from Love Your Melon, a company started in Minnesota with the mission to improve the lives of children battling cancer. He was left with encouragement and a LYM hat.
Lucas also received a pillow with encouraging notes and texts from the George Stone Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska. The box included letters, gift cards and many other fun things.
Lucas still faces many challenges, but his spirit is encouraged.