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Canzano: It's 'Shoe' -- and you -- again this May
Jack Schumacher died at 14, but his mission continues.
Last May I wrote a sobering column about an unforgettable kid named Jack Schumacher.
His friends called him “Shoe.”
Five years ago this month he lost a battle with bone cancer. His mother, Tammi, crawled into the hospital bed and cradled her son’s body in the final minutes of his life.
He was 14.
My heart sank when I wrote that last sentence. Just… 14. Only… 14. It leaves me thinking about my own three daughters and how many times I get to give them a hug.
I received an email from Tammi this week. She writes me every May. Her son is never far from her thoughts. She wanted to know if you and I are interested in helping keep the legacy of the kid named “Shoe” alive.
“LEGO time,” she wrote.
If you want to read about “Shoe” you can do it here. Bring tissue. Expect your view of the world to shift. The kid had the heart of a lion and remarkable empathy. He was thoughtful and courageous to the end.
A surgery took a chunk of muscle from his back. Another left him without a pelvis. In the end, Jack Schumacher’s body was riddled with anti-cancer cocktails and his central nervous system was surrounded by tumors. Facing his own death, “Shoe” kept thinking about other people.
He comforted his three siblings, Zach, Rebekah and Isaiah. He instructed his mother to donate his healthy organs so that a stranger might benefit. “Shoe” also noticed that the other children receiving cancer treatment at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital didn’t have LEGO sets to play with.
“Mom,” he said before his death, “I’m going to make it a goal to collect 100 LEGO sets for those kids.”
He reached that goal before he died. Every May, to honor her son, his mother sets up an Amazon wish list and hopes people continue the mission. Those who wish to donate can buy the LEGO sets and select “Tammi Huber’s Gift Registry Address” as the shipping address for the purchase.
A year ago, I linked the wish list in that column I wrote about “Shoe.” Two days later, Tammi sent me a photograph of her doorstep. It was stacked with Amazon boxes containing donated LEGO sets. I studied the picture through glassy eyes and replied with just one sentence: “That makes me smile.”
To date, more than 3,800 LEGO sets have been donated to area children’s hospitals because of “Shoe” — and you. Tammi and her other children gather the donations and drop them off every May. In the cancer ward, they walk past open doors and see families enduring the same agonizing journey they endured five years ago.
“Shoe” would have been a high school senior last year. Now, he would have been a freshman in college. He loved math, LEGOs and playing baseball. I keep thinking he’d have studied architecture or engineering and made a great Pac-12 Conference pitcher.
“Can you believe it will be five years since Jack passed?” Tammi asked me.
My own children are growing up. One is in college now. The other two are still playing on the monkey bars, kicking soccer balls, and running track. My wife and I get to read books to them at night. We watch them grow and chart their height a few times a year with a marker pen on a board that hangs on a wall in the hallway.
Childhood sure goes fast, doesn’t it?
Tammi has three other children to gauge what she thinks “Shoe” would have looked like and been like today. Still, he’s forever frozen in time — smiling, joyful, and on the pitching mound wearing his baseball uniform.
“I can’t even imagine what his almost 20-year-old man self would be like,” she told me. “We are always stuck at that 14-year-old boy phase with him.”
This year’s Amazon wish list includes LEGO sets featuring Harry Potter, Star Wars, dinosaurs, jungle animals and the Statue of Liberty, among other sets. I see LEGOs in store all the time. My kids love them. But these days, I think about Jack Schumacher when I see them.
Maybe you do, too.
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