A young Carlton woman's legacy of optimism and hope will live on through another woman much like herself.
Roxane and Craig Schmitz of Carlton recently donated a $1,000 scholarship in memory of their daughter, April, who died a year ago of complications from epilepsy at the age of 20.
According to Roxane and Craig, April's generous nature and love of children are characteristics shared by the scholarship recipient, Crystal LaJesse of Grand Portage.
Crystal, like April, was born with a seizure disorder. A love of children was one of April's passions, according to her parents, and Crystal, too, has a dream of someday working with children.
The scholarship in April's memory was set up by her parents and friends to help kids who are trying to overcome challenges in order to reach their goals. When Crystal's high school teacher connected her to the Cooperation Station Child Care Center in Grand Marais through the Minnesota Office of Job Training, with the help of the scholarship she found she will be able to pursue her dream.
"That scholarship is almost exactly what the CDA program costs," commented Patty Nordahl, director of Cooperation Station Child Care.
April Schmitz was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 10 years old. Though her condition improved with treatment, it was never fully under control. Nonetheless, she believed in living life to its fullest, participating in softball and cheerleading at school and attending Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College while also holding down a job.
"We never looked at [April's epilepsy] as a handicap," said Craig. "She had a spirit that never quit. One thing that wasn't in her vocabulary was can't.'"
As the annual Stroll for Epilepsy event approaches next Thursday, Aug. 14, at Park Point in Duluth, the Schmitz family and their team, "Roaring Thunder," encourage everyone to consider helping and supporting people affected by seizures.
The money raised at the event stays right here in the Northland.
The Stroll kicks off at the Beach House Pavilion, with registration at 5:30 p.m. and the stroll at 6:30 p.m. For more information on how to give, or to register for the Stroll, call 1-800-779-0777 or go to www.efmn.org.
Seventy percent of seizure disorders have no cause. The balance come from brain tumors, strokes, head injuries, birth trauma and maternal infection before birth. Making sure children wear helmets and seat belts at appropriate times will help avoid some head injuries that may lead to epilepsy.
And as April's memory continues to live on in the hearts of her friends and family, so also will her dream live on - through Crystal LaJesse.