Serving up hope

A local community rallies around a young boy with a rare genetic disorder

This young boy's rare genetic disorder was no match for the power of a caring local community.

When doctors told Aaron and Tracy Schilling their newborn son, Hunter, had Isodicentric 15 syndrome, the couple's joy quickly turned to worry and fear of the unknown.

The rare developmental disorder could cause seizures; poor muscle tone; and intellectual, behavioral and other difficulties. The severity of Hunter's condition would unfold as the months and years went by.

While most kids take their first steps before their first birthday, Hunter celebrated the milestone at age five. With ongoing therapy, he continued to develop coordination, social and vocabulary skills. From there he took off running – literally. All were glimmers of hope for Hunter and his future.

But while the Schillings were encouraged by their son's progress, they still had many questions about his condition. And even though their family and friends were supportive, no one could fully understand the little victories and heartbreaking setbacks that filled their days.

When the couple heard about the International Isodicentric 15 Conference in Orlando, Florida, it was an answer to their prayers.

The conference would feature the latest research, along with information on treatment and therapy options. The Schillings would also have a chance to connect with other families affected by the disorder.

"Part of our job is to help members thrive. So of course we wanted to do what we could to help."

As they began making plans, however, reality hit. The cost of lodging, meals and travel from their home in Wisconsin to Florida would prevent them from attending the conference.

But something was about to change that.

Focusing on what matters most

Thrivent Financial representatives Tim Pederson and Tom Hughes met with the Schillings. As they talked, their conversation turned to Hunter. Aaron and Tracy shared their dreams for their son, the challenges in front of him and the family's financial difficulties.

As Pederson and Hughes listened, they were confident they could help the couple prepare financially for the future. But at that moment, the Schillings needed more than financial guidance. "Part of our job is to help members thrive," explains Hughes. "So of course we wanted to do what we could to help."

As Thrivent members themselves, Hughes and Pederson put their passion for helping the family into action. They applied to lead a Thrivent Action Team and began to organize and publicize a "Hope for Hunter Spaghetti Dinner" fundraiser.

News of the event quickly spread throughout the local community. Nearly 300 people attended the dinner. Freewill donations totaled more than $6,000 – a figure that allowed the Schillings to attend the conference.

"We were humbled and amazed by the reaction," says Tracy Schilling. "We are so thankful for everyone who made this opportunity possible for us."

Unite to take action

Thrivent Action Teams make it easy to bring a group of family and friends together to meet an immediate need. Find out how a Thrivent Action Team can help you power your passion to take action!