Graduation celebrations are happening across the Fox Valley as students and parents mark a transition to adulthood. For Scott and Lisa Sheppard of Sherwood, it is a reminder that their son Grant, who would have been a part of Kaukauna High School’s graduating Class of 2023, is not part of the festivities.
Grant passed away before his first birthday, but the Sheppard family is comforted knowing that their son’s legacy will impact the future of a classmate he didn’t get a chance to meet.
Grant was born in 2004, and seemed like he was thriving. But at four weeks old, Scott and Lisa noticed that their third child was not able to hold his head or arms up. He was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the most severe form of muscular dystrophy. A genetic disorder, SMA patients lack the protein required for motor neurons to live and keep muscles strong. Without the protein, muscles weaken and loss of function progresses.
At 11 weeks old, Grant succumbed to pneumonia. To honor his memory, the Sheppards created the Grant Thomas Sheppard Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation.
“We set this fund up to keep Grant’s memory alive by supporting SMA research for a cure, families in the SMA community dealing with this diagnosis, and to help organizations that helped us through that difficult time,” explains Scott.
The gift of a bright future
Scott and Lisa worked with Kaukauna High School and the Community Foundation to create a scholarship, which was supported by their fund, that would be awarded to a member of Grant’s Kaukauna’s Class of 2023. The scholarship application, administered by Kaukauna High School, asked the basic questions, along with one essay question.
“We asked them to share an adversity they had faced in their lives, and how they overcame it,” says Scott. “There were 30 applications, and all of them were great. But one essay in particular stood out from the rest.”
Allison Ott’s answer touched the Sheppards. Allison’s dad passed away of a sudden heart attack a few years ago, and life was hard for her after this tremendous loss.
Even in her grief, Allison made sure she stuck with her commitment to her studies, as well as volunteering and participating in varsity pom and dance, Key Club, and track.
Allison wrote in part:
“After that traumatic experience, my entire life turned upside down. Nothing in my life was like it was before he passed away. Even after losing him, I never let myself give up on everything I had and worked so hard for.
“The time and dedication I have spent from dancing to volunteering through the National Honors Society have shown how hardworking I can be when I put my mind to something. I never wanted to be known as the girl who gave up because she lost her dad, so I started working harder and tried new things like being a mentor for freshmen through our school’s Ghost Crew. Even through this unexpected and traumatic experience, I have become more determined to work hard on the different activities I try.”
Scott and Lisa met Allison at Kaukauna’s scholarship awards ceremony in May. Scott gave a presentation while calling a surprised Allison to the stage to accept her award.
“I said, ‘Allison, would you please come up?’ and I got emotional sharing why we selected this young lady for the scholarship from Grant’s fund.”
The grant will help Allsion attend UW-Platteville to study Forensic Science this fall.
Interested in exploring a family fund? We have a variety of flexible fund options. Check them out here.