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Gifts of Generosity: Family gives thanks for kindness shown during time of sorrow

About this series A few weeks back, The Forum asked readers who had experienced acts of compassion and generosity to share their stories. Their answers were powerful. So powerful, in fact, we decided we couldn't choose just one to feature in our ...

Shelby Carlson tugs at her dad's beard
Eleven-month-old Shelby Carlson tugs at her father Steve's beard while her mother, Nikkie, watches in their south Fargo home. David Samson / The Forum

About this series

A few weeks back, The Forum asked readers who had experienced acts of compassion and generosity to share their stories.

Their answers were powerful. So powerful, in fact, we decided we couldn't choose just one to feature in our news pages.

So we're giving you five.

We kick off our "Gifts of Generosity" series on the most appropriate day of the year, Thanksgiving. The tales, which conclude Monday, are a reminder during this holiday season that while trouble and sadness abound in the world, help is sometimes just around the corner.

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And it can be in the form of someone you've never met.

Nikkie and Steve Carlson became the parents of twins on Dec. 21 of last year.

The boy and girl - Dalton and Shelby - were 15 weeks early.

Dalton, who was 1 lb. 2 oz., lived for about nine hours.

As painful as the loss was, it wasn't the only blow the Fargo family suffered last winter.

At a time when his daughter would spend 89 days in an intensive care unit before she could go home, Steve Carlson, a self-employed finish carpenter, could find little work.

A year has passed since that difficult time.

Baby Shelby, who went home from the hospital in March, is doing well.

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Steve Carlson is employed by Adams Development doing construction work.

And although the Carlsons still mourn their son, they know they have many things to be thankful for this year.

There were the numerous acts of kindness that descended on the family even before the children were born.

"My family, friends and co-workers were a constant support system to us. The prayer chains at several churches and from people that we don't even know were very strong as well," said Carlson, whose doctors placed her on complete bed rest the day after Thanksgiving last year.

Outpouring of help

Once the babies were born, more donations and help poured in.

"So many wonderful people - most we knew, a lot we didn't - were providing their support," Nikkie Carlson said.

Co-workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield donated their own paid time off so Nikkie Carlson could have a few more days with Shelby after maternity leave was up.

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A benefit fund was established for the family at State Bank and Trust, which took a pay-it-forward project it was organizing and steered it toward helping the family.

"How it brought me to tears," Nikkie Carlson said of the project, which involved junior high students.

"These girls worked so hard and were so passionate about raising money in order to provide our family with a beautiful and generous gift," Carlson added.

The present included supplies of diapers, baby formula and a gift card from Target.

"It was completely overwhelming," Nikkie Carlson said. "I promised the girls that Shelby will pay it forward one day."

Lasting impact

Steve Carlson reflected on the past year while playing with his daughter on the floor of the family's living room.

"Seems like people just did whatever they could to contribute. They did whatever they could to help," he said.

Nikkie Carlson said words are not enough to express her thanks, and time will not cause her gratitude to fade.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about all of the kindness, generosity and support," she said.

"It's just important that people know generosity makes a difference in people's lives. No matter how big, or little."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

Shelby Carlson tugs at her dad's beard
Shelby Carlson as a newborn in the hospital. Special to The Forum

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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