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Could you help Liam find a Brighter Tomorrow?

July 3, 2018

Shortly before Liam Schroeder’s fourth birthday, he went to the doctor to get his neck checked.

He’d pulled a muscle, doctors thought, and needed tests to determine how best to treat the injury.

On Sept. 16, Liam turned 4.

Three days after the party, he was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma, an aggressive tumor that wrapped around his brain stem. Just a few days later, Liam underwent surgery to remove the tumor, his father, Brian Schroeder, said.

“They said he might not be able to walk, talk, or feed himself,” Schroeder said. “There was a possibility that he’d be trached. … It was the size of a small orange.”

The surgery lasted more than eight hours. After the tumor was biopsied, the doctors confirmed that the growth was cancerous.

After a couple of days, though, Liam seemed to be recovering well.

“He woke up, asked for Mom and Dad, and said he had to pee,” Schroeder said.

The Schroeder family spent weeks in the ICU, and another several months at the Ronald McDonald House.

Liam underwent physical, speech and occupational therapies at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as 33 proton beam radiation treatments to destroy any lingering cancer cells.

During that time, his parents got involved with Brighter Tomorrows, a nonprofit support network for the families of children with cancer.

There, they received information from nonprofit leaders, attended support meetings and listened to speakers, and connected with other parents.

“For me, it’s been great to meet other families who are going through the same thing,” Schroeder said. “It’s nice to create those bonds and friendships.”

On Saturday, the Schroeders will be one of three featured families at Go for the Gold, Brighter Tomorrows’ primary fundraiser. The 27th Run/Family Fun Walk begins at 8:30 a.m. outside the Silver Lake Swimming Pool.

Last year was the biggest fundraiser ever, Brighter Tomorrows promotor Risa Klein said in an email. There were 400 participants, who raised $38,000 in individual fundraising efforts and registration fees.

So far, runners have raised $24,600 toward this year’s $40,000 goal, she added. Most of the runners will commit within the week of the race.

Race pre-registration has been open since mid-June, but runners and walkers can still take part the day of. Tables for day-of runners will open at 7 a.m. Saturday.

The run/walk is just one more summer stop for the Schroeders, who are back at their home in Winona.

They’re still involved with Brighter Tomorrows, Schroeder said, and will maintain the friendships they’ve made.

Liam’s cancer has a 75 percent chance of recurrence, which means that he’ll undergo an MRI every three months to monitor his recovery.

Until then, the family is enjoying the summer free of cancer concerns — and prepping for a Make a Wish trip to Disney in October.

“It’s just one day at a time, one foot in front of the other,” he said. “We’re trying to get back to the new normal.”