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Warren girl uses birthday party to help sick children

Jessica Nelson asked for donations to Scout's Love instead of presents

COURTNEY VAUGHN - Jessica Nelson and her mother, Trinity Nelson, display some of the items that were donated for Scout's Love during Jessica's birthday party last month. In front of the Nelsons is a framed photo of Scout Nicole Daniel, who died at 10 weeks old due to a congenital heart defect.

Ten-year-old Jessica Nelson celebrated her birthday last month with friends and lots of presents — but the presents weren’t for her.

Jessica, a Warren girl and fourth-grade student at Otto Peterson Elementary School, decided she wanted to have a birthday party where all of her guests brought donations for Scout's Love, a charitable organization near and dear to her family’s heart, created to benefit children with defects in theirs.

“When my mom was talking about my birthday, I was thinking through, like, maybe I could do something with horses,” Jessica recalled, her hands brushing up against her T-shirt adorned in a horse motif as she explained her thought process. “I already have more toys than I need, but instead of giving more gifts to me, how ’bout instead we give gifts to people that need them for survival?” she asked herself.

Scout’s Love was created by Kaelinne and Nate Daniel, after their 10-week-old infant daughter died in the hospital due to double outlet right ventricle and scimitar syndrome, a congenital heart problem she was diagnosed with prenatally.

Jessica’s mother, Trinity Nelson, was childhood best friends with Kaelinne Daniel and the two remain close.

The organization collects donated items such as clothing, blankets and other comfort items to babies and children in hospitals for treatment due to heart conditions.

When Kaelinne Daniel was pregnant, she knew her unborn child had a life-threatening heart defect. Trinity Nelson said Jessica constantly asked about Scout’s health. She had to explain to Jessica and her 8-year-old son, Tyler, that Scout didn’t make it out of the hospital.

“She looked at me with watery eyes and said Scout passed on,” Jessica recalled of her mother’s reaction. “We shed some tears together, but then we moved on.”

Three months later, Jessica found a way to help the Daniel family honor their daughter and carry out the mission of Scout’s Love.

Jessica is energetic and earnest. Freckles lightly dot her cheeks and her eyes light up as she skims the hall of her home, pointing to pictures of family and talking about her younger brother. She talks fondly of horses and her family pets: four cats and three dogs she nestles up against as they rush to sniff out a visitor.

Jessica said she hopes to work with horses when she’s older, teaching children how to ride and train them.

She sorted through bags of soft, hand-knit baby hats, newborn clothing, and baby blankets she got as presents for her birthday. All of the items will go to Scout’s Love to be disbursed to regional hospitals.

“I had a blast, even without gifts, but they ended up bringing a few gifts for me, too,” Jessica said. She hosted her party at Art Frenzy in St. Helens — with a horse cake, of course.

Trinity and her husband, Jason, live in the Warren home Jason grew up in. Trinity was also raised in Columbia County. Her father, Al McDonald, lives in St. Helens.

McDonald said he sees that his family’s values have been passed down to his granddaughter.

“We moved way out in the country so we would have some reins on our daughters,” McDonald said of he and his late wife’s decision to move to Rainier and raise their children there. He contrasted his upbringing with alcoholic parents to his granddaughter. “To come as far as we’ve come and to have her making a decision without anybody telling her to do this. ... This starts her off even that much better, to be acknowledged for doing a great job,” he reflected.

Jessica is learning to knit baby hats so she can donate them to Scout’s Love, and has already inspired some of her friends to host their birthday parties to benefit the organization.