Little boy with big smile touches Gilbert school - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Little boy with big smile touches Gilbert school

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Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at Contact her at

Michelle Reese covered education for the Tribune, also blogging about motherhood and family issues at

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011 1:32 pm | Updated: 3:34 pm, Tue Aug 20, 2013.

The grinning boy pictured on the funeral website is standing in front of a school bus, on what might have been his first day of kindergarten.

Five-year-old Dominic Matthew Malchow spent less than a week as a student at Gilbert's Highland Park Elementary School. But the child with the big smile - and even bigger heart - managed to touch everyone he met.

So it was with shock and sadness that the staff heard the news about Dominic's death last week.

"He's the sweetest, happiest little kid," his teacher, Caree Kennedy said Thursday. "He's shy and lovable. He's a heart-warming kid. Everybody who saw him fell in love with him."

Dominic was in Kennedy's self-contained special education class, which mainly helps children with Down syndrome, like Dominic.

But the young boy also suffered from leukemia and lung disease. In fact, the family made the move to Arizona from Ohio in October to help better address Dominic's health, Kennedy said.

But one day last week, the school got a call that Dominic was in the hospital. He died on Aug. 18 from complications due to his compromised immune system from the chemotherapy, Kennedy said.

Though his time at the school was brief, the parent-teacher-student organization (PTSO) quickly made a decision: A school fundraiser, already scheduled for this week, would be turned into a benefit for the family, said Sonya Watkins, administrative assistant to the principal at Highland Park.

Just more than $900 was raised in a few hours Wednesday during the benefit at the Gilbert Dairy Queen near Higley and Baseline roads. The funds will be given to the family to help with funeral and burial expenses. Both were scheduled to be held Thursday night.

"When we have someone in our community who passes away, we do something. That's just what we do," Sonya said of the 900-student school. "It's a tight-knit community. Our boundaries are very small so we're very close."

The community also took the family under its wings: Meals were brought to their home almost immediately, Caree said.

"We knew the family was in shock," she said. "I know meals were brought into the family last week to the point that their fridge was overflowing."

Dominic is survived by his parents, Gus and Kim Malchow, and his four siblings, Anthony, 3; Gus 12; Angela, 9; and Danny, 20.

Falconer Funeral Home in Gilbert is hosting a visitation 5 p.m. Thursday, with services at 6 p.m.

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