Scotty’s Little Soldiers founder Nikki Scott shares touching story of losing her husband in Afghanistan and breaking the news to her children
- Credit: Courtesy of Nikki Scott
Army wife Nikki Scott set up her charity Scotty's Little Soldiers in her husband's name after he was killed in Afghanistan. It offers a lifeline to hundreds of bereaved children who have lost a parent in the armed forces, and with your help she'd like to reach thousands more.
Her husband's death tore Nikki Scott's world apart. And bringing their two young children through every service family's worst nightmare made her realise those affected need support to help them smile again.
Scotty's Little Soldiers already helps more than 300 children, but Ms Scott predicts there are 1,000 more in the UK who need support, when you count those who have lost a parent in the services through an accident or illness.
She knows from her own experience how traumatic a sudden death in the family can be for children.
Back in July 2009, she noticed two cars approaching the family home on a Wiltshire army base.
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One was driven by a man in a suit, the other by a man in combat fatigues. The sight threw the 28-year-old mum-of-two into a panic.
Her husband Corporal Lee Scott, 26, was serving in Afghanistan in the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment. He was due to return home to his wife and two young children in just three weeks' time.
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The couple, from King's Lynn, were living in the garrison town of Tidworth, where Lee was based.
'I lived on the end of a cul-de-sac so I knew they were coming to speak to me,' Ms Scott said. 'I was low because I read about that week being the worst for deaths in Afghanistan and I hadn't spoken to Lee in five days.
'I started crying, walking down the street. I started thinking about what had happened to Lee, I did not think the worst had happened.'
Nothing could have prepared her for what they were about to tell her.
Cpl Lee Scott had been killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, hours earlier.
The blast that tore through his armoured vehicle had robbed five-year-old son Kai and his seven-month-old sister Brooke of their daddy.
'Even years on I can't believe they said that to me,' Ms Scott said. 'You have horrible nightmares when they are away, it was really surreal. 'I kept saying you must have the wrong Scott, there's another Scott here. Then I was in sheer panic, I had to get Kai from school.'
After Kai was dropped home by his headteacher, he came running in the lounge showing his mum a spider he made in his art lesson that day.
'I was looking at him thinking: 'I'm about to shatter your whole world'. I had to be completely straight with him, we never had a death in the family, he didn't even know what heaven was.'
In the months following his father's death, Kai would ask about how he died and where heaven was in an attempt to fully grasp what death meant. Ms Scott found herself repeating the same answers to Brooke, who grew up with no memory of her father.
Although they were able to understand what had happened to their father it did little to stop their nightmares and anxiety whenever mum was away.
Ms Scott searched online to find more support for her children, and although there was some help she could not find anything that was solely aimed at helping bereaved children.
It was not until a family holiday some nine months after her husband's death that the idea for Scotty's Little Soldiers was born.
'It was the first time I saw Kai laughing in the swimming pool,' Ms Scott said. 'It was my wake up call.
'He's been really badly affected by this, I started wondering how many other kids lost a parent in the forces.'
Initially her idea for the charity was to set up a holiday home in Great Yarmouth for children and their families to go to in times of distress.
'I completely went for it, I had to do something to keep myself busy and to do something positive,' Ms Scott said.
'I spoke to some widows on Facebook and they were all for it, they thought it was an excellent idea but one thing they really wanted was for their kids to meet others.'
She set up her charity from her home in August 2010 and since then has garnered national attention and widespread support.
Its headquarters is now based in North Lynn Industrial Estate with a 10-person team and numerous volunteers. Their warehouse is filled with Scotty's merchandise and fund raising gear and gifts for the 332 children it now supports.
Ms Scott, 36, and her children, now 13 and 8, live in Wisbech with Nikki's husband Joe Howlin and their two-year-old daughter Tilly.
Every day this week, we will feature stories of the brave children and their families who were able to smile again thanks to this charity.
Scotty's Little Soldiers provides valuable support to bereaved British Forces children to help them learn to smile again.
The charity provides assistance to any child or young person up to and including the age of 18 who have lost a parent in the armed forces.
Children who join the charity as a member benefit from three assistance programmes - Smiles, Support and Strides.
The Smile programme help families plan fun days out, arrange vouchers for anniversaries and gifts for birthdays and Christmas.
Children are able to get emotional support through counselling and a dedicated family support worker in the charity's Support programme.
The Strides programme offers grants for driving lessons, university and extracurricular activities.
To download a membership form or read more about the charity's work, visit their website.