Eau Claire woman performs random acts of kindness on anniversary of son’s death

Most people lose hope while dealing with tragedy, but one Eau Claire woman is turning her grief into a blessing for others.

Kat Schilling, lost her son Zach to Ewing Sarcoma, which is a rare form of bone cancer. He was only 16 when he died. Schilling learned of the cancer after her son was complaining of leg cramps while playing football. 

"He was playing football, he was in seventh grade at Eau Claire Lutheran School, and he was complaining of leg cramps late at night, early in the morning, that kind of thing. So we took him in, they assumed he had torn a hamstring, put him on some physical therapy. It continually got worse. They found a tumor on his pelvic bone the size of an adult fist," Schilling said.

After learning of her son’s diagnosis, Schilling’s father died, she also lost her house, and her job. This all happened within 48 hours. It was a rough time in her life. 

"It was hell. That’s the best way I can put it," Schilling said.

Zach died about three years after his diagnosis. Schilling has refused to stay silent in her sorrow. On the anniversaries of Zach’s death, she performs random acts of kindness. 

"So I drove around the state of Wisconsin. I bought cups of coffee, I paid for gas, I bought quarters of fabric, and every time I did, I left a slip of paper that I had printed out that said today is the anniversary of my son’s death and I’m bound and determined to make this a good day. Zachary’s mantra was keep praying, please do," Schilling said.

It’s a tradition she’ll continue, encouraging joy despite heartache. Schilling’s story is being featured in the national campaign called "How We Heal" from CaringBridge. As part of the campaign, she is also featured in the short documentary that shares the name "How We Heal" filmed by renowned National Geographic Filmmaker, David McLain.

To view the CaringBridge story, click here. 

July is National Sarcoma Awareness month.

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