Stillwater family carries on Zach Sobiech’s legacy

| December 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

Danny Valerius, front, cheers at the Mall of America at a fundraiser for kids with cancer Dec. 9 with brothers Andy, left, and Charlie, and parents Paul and Jackie.

Danny Valerius of St. Michael in Stillwater stood with his parents and two older brothers in the Mall of America rotunda as a crowd of hundreds gathered Dec. 9 for an annual fundraising event put on by KS95 radio to remember Zach Sobiech, also a parishioner of St. Michael, who died of cancer in 2013 at age 18.

The story hits home to the Valerius family. In September 2015, Danny, 12, was diagnosed with high-risk, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He got so sick the family wondered if he was going to survive.

Now, he’s back to health, back to school as a seventh-grader at St. Croix Catholic School, which Sobiech also attended, and full of optimism about his future.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel like I could run like a million miles right now. My heart is beating 20 times faster. It’s awesome.”

Danny clapped, cheered and sang along with the Clouds choir (named after a song Sobiech wrote and recorded that went viral on the Internet), joined by his parents, Paul and Jackie, and two of his brothers, Andy and Charlie. The family, which belongs to St. Michael in Stillwater, was filled with both joy and gratitude about being able to come to the event and celebrate Danny’s journey back to health, which began four months ago.

“It’s so amazing to see him standing here singing with the Clouds choir,” said Jackie, who works at St. Croix Catholic School as a physical education teacher. “A year ago he was a very sick little boy laying in a hospital bed with no hair, no weight, he couldn’t eat or swallow. And now he’s here, standing, running, smiling, talking to all his fan at the Clouds choir. We are so very grateful.”

Said Paul: “It’s just great to see. It’s hard to believe that within a year that he’s gone from being so ill with all the chemo and being in the hospital to being where he is right now where he’s got the energy. He’s had a great attitude throughout the whole thing, which has helped. He’s had support. And it’s just great to be at this event where you see all the support with all the other families and all the kids.”

One positive to come out of Danny’s illness is that his family and the Sobiech family have gotten to know each other through their common battles against cancer. In fact, Jackie gave Zach’s mother, Laura Sobiech, a warm hug at the conclusion of the fundraising event at the Mall, and Danny stood next to Laura’s daughter, Allie, during the singing of “Clouds.”

“Laura and Allie Sobiech reached out to our family last fall after Danny was diagnosed,” Jackie said. “Laura’s friendship with Danny gave him so much hope, so much to live fully for. Laura was so genuinely interested in Danny’s story, what he thought and felt about his illness.”

Danny continues to get treatments at Children’s Clinic in Minneapolis, and Jackie said he will need more before he will be considered to be in remission.

 

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Category: Local News