Jeremiah Solhjem has had a big life of building tall towers and defeating shifty robbers thanks to his vivid imagination and the 9-year-old’s love of Legos. I’m sure he’s playing right now as I write this, but we can no longer see him.
This is actually the second time she is navigating the death of a child, although the first time it was from afar. Six years ago, her best friend lost her 4-year-old son. That little boy loved trains, and Jana watched as the mother channeled her grief by organizing a toy train drive to help other children at her local hospital in Texas.
Jana says she understands now why her friend continues to work so hard on that project. It’s an avenue of healing and a way to make sure people continue to remember the children who have moved on to heaven.
A week before he died, Jeremiah was bottling honey with his sister when he turned to her and said, “Ya know, life is better when you do it well.” Out of that simple truth, Jeremiah’s legacy was born.
His parents have started a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to keep Jeremiah’s memory alive and to encourage other young people to live well. It’s called Do It Well. The goal is to enrich the lives of children in the hospital and those in foster care in Cass and Richland counties by providing a bag filled with fun and love. Time moves slowly for children in hospitals, but Legos can help kids create a world outside of sterile nurses and noisy machines. Children in foster care seldom have many toys of their own, and a box of Legos is often a treasured possession.
Sixty kids in two North Dakota hospitals are playing with Legos and wearing Do It Well bracelets thanks to Jana’s first round of donations. A stack of copies of Jeremiah’s favorite book, “The Action Bible,” has been placed in the hospitals’ playrooms for those who would like to take one.
The ultimate goal of the organization is to reach children in need and show them the love of Christ during difficult times, but Jana says the benefits are countless, even for her own family.
“I didn’t anticipate the impact this would have on others, and also on myself. Now new people are getting to know Jeremiah that never would have known him. It’s important as a mom who has lost a child that people remember him. We don’t want to ever forget, or have others forget.”
It seems that a 9-year-old boy with a love of Jesus and Legos is awfully good at teaching people how to do kindness well. Do It Well was recently the recipient of a $1,000 Christmas Gift from Mix 101.9 FM and a goodwill offering of more than $600 from the Solhjems’ church family.
Jeremiah is going to have lots of fun watching over all the children building on the community’s generosity. If you would like to make a donation or request a gift for a child hospitalized or in foster care, please visit www.doitwell.org.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.