MINDEN - Although he is young, 18-year-old Kyle Heidt has already set his top priority in life: his family.
So when his family's financial future looked on the brink of disaster, threatened by costly medical bills, outstanding mortgage payments and the diminution of his father's small business, the 2008 Douglas High graduate and former star athlete turned desperation into motivation and wrote a letter to The Record-Courier, which is a sister paper to the Nevada Appeal.
"My family means the world to me, and I would do anything for them. My story begins in asking for help in the community," Kyle stated in his letter, which was published June 25.
In the letter, Kyle explained that his mother, Debbie Heidt, had been struggling with multiple sclerosis for years and that her condition was getting worse. His father, Mark Heidt, who owned and operated Kid's Camp in Lake Tahoe, got a job as a Douglas County bus driver after the 2007 Angora fire devastated profits from the summer camp. The family depended on those profits to pay Debbie's medical bills and the mortgage for their residence in Johnson Lane, which included a half-completed, wheelchair-accessible bathroom and living space in the rear of the house for Debbie.
"We looked like we were going to lose the house, and I couldn't let that happen," Kyle said on Tuesday at the Johnson Lane residence.
He and his sister, 17-year-old Danyelle, took part-time jobs to assist with costs, but it wasn't until Kyle's letter was published that adequate help came from the community.
"I want to let our community know how unbelievable they are," said Mark Heidt.
Help came in the form of monetary donations, fundraisers, donated supplies and labor for the completion of the back room.
"The Heidt family is an incredible example of strength, perseverance and the power of faith," wrote Douglas High English teacher Karen Lamb in a July 2 letter. "They are facing huge obstacles and need our help."
Lamb auctioned off a stay at her family's Lake Tahoe cabin to raise money for the Heidts, though it wasn't easy for Mark to accept help.
"I am proud man and this whole thing has taught me a lesson," he said. "I've always believed giving is the highest form of living. So if I can teach people how to give, I can learn how to receive."
Mark said he was proud to see Kyle grow up into a responsible young man.
"The pride thing had a chokehold on me and I was ready to tap out, and here came my son to the rescue," Mark said.
Mark said when Kyle was 4, he saw his mother go into a seizure and has been haunted by the memory since.
"Because of the seizures, Debbie struggles to remember things, like when we were married, or when the children were born," Mark said. "It's been tough on the kids. Her medicine costs about $2,200 a month."
Kyle originally planned to attend college in Southern California but decided to stay closer to home. He will attend Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village this fall.
"I hope the kids have learned what you do when things get tough," Mark said. "A lot of people give up and go elsewhere, but our family refused to lose."
The family is now in a place where Danyelle can stop working and focus on her last year of school; she plays varsity soccer for Douglas. Kyle plans on studying entertainment technology at Sierra Nevada, and the youngest, 8-year-old Samantha, is glad her siblings are sticking around.
"I'm happy because my brother and sister are going to be here," she said.
Mark counts his blessings but said he can't control the future.
"We're taking things one day at a time," he said. "But I have never been more proud to be a resident of Douglas County. This is not just about the Heidt family but about the Carson Valley family. You could never get this kind of support in a big city."
Donations can be made to the Heidt Family Benefit Fund, Wells Fargo Account No. 7401016196. Call family representative Julio Maglinao at (775) 450-5953 for more information.