Cancer claims SAHS senior weeks before graduation
Zach Sobiech, a Stillwater Area High School senior who used music to chronicle his fight against cancer, lost his battle to the disease Monday.
Sobiech died Monday morning at his home and at peace, surrounded by family, friends, and music, according to a statement released by the Sobiech family.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our son, Zachary David Sobiech. Our family has been blessed, not only by his amazing presence in our lives, but also by the love and support of our family and friends and by so many people in the community. In particular we’d like to thank those people who listened with their hearts and helped Zach bring his message and his music to the world,” said Sobiech’s family in a statement.
During the last months of his life, the 18-year-old Sobiech chose to give a message of love, hope and helping others with the establishment of the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund and the release of his music.
Sobiech’s music, infectious lyrics and simple tunes have imprinted on the minds and hearts of millions around the world. Sobiech’s song, “Clouds,” made his battle with Osteosarcoma public when it became a YouTube sensation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Zach’s family and friends,” said John Hallberg, CEO of Children’s Cancer Research Fund. “Zach Sobiech faced his cancer diagnosis with grace and strength. His music touched millions, and he leaves a lasting legacy that will help other young cancer patients through the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund. Zach once said ‘You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.’ He taught us all how to live, and we are all better for having known him.”
The University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital that cared for Sobiech and his family released the following statement:
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Zach Sobiech. Zach and his family inspired all of us as they confronted his diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Zach gave so much of himself to others and we all were touched by his amazing musical talent. We thank Zach for showing the world what kids can do and bringing awareness to a devastating disease.”
Dr. Brenda Weigel, MD, led Sobiech’s treatment.
“It’s been hard, knowing him over the whole journey, but he’s faced his journey with maturity beyond his years. I remember him always bringing his guitar to treatment. It was a solace for him through the long days and long nights. I always knew that he loved music and it’s what kept him going. He developed into a young man who developed his dreams and continued to persue them despite his cancer diagnosis and it didn’t stop him. He used his gifts to raise awareness of a rare disease that he so passionately wanted others to not face. He told me a lot that he hoped something good came out of all this and that epitomizes Zach,” she said. “He has an amazing family and support is so key. They were always with him and allowed him to live his dream and gave him and us as well an amazing gift.”
Sobiech is survived by his parents, Rob and Laura; siblings Alli (Collin), Sam and Grace, along with Zach’s many friends, teachers, classmates and others who have suffered a tremendous loss.
“The Stillwater Area Public Schools community is mourning the loss of a beloved student, classmate and friend.” said Stillwater Area Public Schools spokeswoman Carissa Keister. “Zach has been an inspiration to people around the world as he heroically battled a rare form of cancer. As a member of our school community, Zach has made us proud. He will be greatly missed.”
Counselors and support services are available to students who would like to speak to someone. There is no school memorial planned at this time, but Keister said conversations are taking place with the family about honoring Sobiech at commencement.
Stillwater Relay For Life chairwoman Lois Raboin expressed her sadness over the news of Sobiech’s passing. This year’s Relay, scheduled Aug. 2-3 at SAHS Pony Stadium, was dedicated to Sobiech and his family.
“Well, just complete sadness for his family. It’s been a long road for them,” she said. “Hopefully, Zach’s at peace.”
Raboin believes Sobiech’s music will continue giving cancer patients, survivors and their families hope.
“His music is going to live forever. Everyone who hears ‘Clouds,’ they’ll think of Zach,” she said.
Raboin said Sobiech’s family will participate in Relay For Life ceremonies and she plans to ask the family to bring copies of Zach’s CD to sell at the event.
“His family was gracious enough to say they would participate and speak at our luminary-lighting ceremony,” Raboin said. “We will be playing his songs throughout our relay. We will play his songs at the luminary ceremony.”
“It’s hard because no one should die from cancer at 18,” Weigel said. “It’s not fair, and dealing with cancer can turn into anger and into so many different things. But Zach took the route of ‘I’m in this situation but maybe some day it will be better for someone else.’ ”
The funeral and visitation for Sobiech will be open to the public and details are now released on his CaringBridge page www.caringbridge.org/visit/zacharysobiech. The family has requested that the funeral details not be released in the newspaper but on Sobiech’s CaringBridge site.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund.