Nicky Coleman was 2 days short of going on his dream vacation with the “Make a Wish Foundation” on a cruise to Alaska. He had been looking forward to it for weeks. Nicky Coleman was just 17 days short of his 18th birthday. He never got to celebrate the milestone of becoming an “adult.”
Nicky Coleman died at age 17 of muscular dystrophy.
Loving uncle and aunt of Nicky, Leo and Judy Verkaik, long-time, gracious supporters of Salem Christian Homes, started the Nicky Coleman Fund for Salem just one month after their nephew’s death to honor his memory.
Nicky had been shown over and over, that with his wheelchair— “you don’t count.” Constantly feeling like a nuisance and “caged” with his wheelchair, Nicky liked nothing better than to be out in the community. Whether at an amusement park where he might get to be led to the front of the line because of his wheelchair, or the special handicap seating at Angel stadium that allowed his friends without wheelchairs to sit next to him, Nicky loved how he was accommodated.
His Aunt Judy spoke about it: “He just felt free there [at amusement parks, ball games]. Everyone is so happy to see you. You’re free, with space that is accommodating to you. And he finally didn’t have to worry about making marks on the floors with his chair, or getting stuck on the carpet. At places like Disneyland, they just made Nicky feel special and that’s what he was.”
She continued, “Everyone with a disability is a special person.”
“My husband and I got to talking, what about a fund to give the men and women at Salem the same feelings Nicky got when he was out in the community? They can feel free just like Nicky. And then they wouldn’t have to worry about where the money comes from.”
The Nicky Coleman Fund was born.
Nicky’s family said the muscular dystrophy made him quiet. His favorite times became out in the community where he could feel part of society and “normal” again. Judy said he just loved it more than anything. If he had to pick, she thinks his favorite places would have been Sea World and Disneyland.
Leo and Judy Verkaik hope the Nicky Coleman Fund will continue to bring the Salem residents the same joy their nephew experienced. They want every resident of Salem, regardless of the severity of their disability to be given the chance to feel “free” at the exciting places in our community. Leo and Judy’s sons are also active supporters to the Nicky Coleman Fund. The family hopes the fund will bring many memories to our Salem family. It is open for all our Salem supporters to contribute to.
God shows His grace through the evident ways in which the lives of people are intermingled because of our shared needs and bonds which they create.