- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2017
- Hometown: Allen, TX
- School Year: Junior
- Major: Plan II and Marketing
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About: Hello friends, family, acquaintances, stalkers, and kind anonymous donors. My name is Liz Schasel (Elizabeth if you ask my mom) and I'm a third year student at The University of Texas at Austin. I am double-majoring in Plan II and Marketing with a minor in Italian. I recently got back from studying abroad in Italy for five months (if you consider eating gelato all 24 hours of the day the same thing as studying abroad). I love writing, reading, playing soccer, swing-dancing, eating, crying at The Avett Brothers concerts, and petting other people's dogs.
Why I Ride
My favorite week of the summer after my freshman year of college was spent as a counselor for Camp Kesem—a free overnight camp for children of a parent affected by cancer. The camp provides a week of fun and support for the campers, allowing them to just be kids again, while simultaneously providing a week of humbling growth for counselors like me, whose childhood was devoid of such heartbreak.
I was a counselor for the 6 to 8 year old girls, whose energy and untroubled spirits quickly made me forget the tragedy each of them had in common. Almost immediately I became caught up in little moments, watching the girls play together and learning the details of their personalities.
After just one day of herding all 18 girls to and from activities, I found myself growing fond of them—especially those with kind smiles and willing attitudes that brought peace to our cabin at its most chaotic times.
One of these girls was named Blue Rose. She was a light to those around her—an endearing presence of unending joy. I was immediately charmed by her goofy nature, and slowly became mesmerized by her approachable leadership as I watched her cheer on other girls on the rope swing, help them stack their dirty dishes after meals, and sweetly remind the other girls of the rules when they weren’t following directions. She is six years old.
On Tuesday night of camp, after putting the campers to bed, the counselors attended a meeting about a ceremony that was to take place the next night called Empowerment, during which the campers and counselors share their stories about cancer. We were read a list of campers who were recently bereaved so that we would be aware of who the ceremony would be especially difficult for. I listened with a heavy heart to several names I did not recognize, feeling the familiar but distant grief that is felt when learning of a tragedy that belongs to someone unknown. My mind began to wander, trying to attach faces to names, assuming the campers on the list must be the quieter, older ones from the units I had not yet gotten to know.
And then I heard “Blue Rose.”
Her mother had passed away a few months before camp—something you never would have guessed after seeing her laugh, play, and tend to the needs of others before even considering herself.
In one immediate, devastating moment all the motherly thoughts I had been having toward her throughout the week rushed to my head—thoughts I had paid no attention to at the time. I had been admiring her curly hair, hoping she wouldn’t begin to hate and straighten it as she grows up; I had been proud of the way she offered to give away her ice cream to one of the older girls who didn’t have one; I had been certain that at home she must be so loved.
Not once had I considered she might no longer have a mom.
I do not know anything about her mother’s death. I don’t know what type of cancer she had; I don’t know how long her battle lasted; I don’t know the conditions under which she passed.
I also don’t know if she knows that her daughter dances instead of walks, that she wiggles her tongue between her teeth when you talk to her, that she is selfless all the way to her bones, and that she changed my entire life.
All I know is that there is no comprehensible reason that I am here to be raptured by Blue Rose and her mom isn’t, or that it’s her, not me, who has to grow up without a mom. The only thing I do understand is that we do what we do for the people around us, and all we truly control is the love and support we share.
This is why I ride. With every mile next summer, I hope to rewrite the story of suffering into one of strength and love.
I ride for family members who continue to fight battles against their dissenting cells.
I ride for a close family friend whose insurmountable strength helped her survive cancer and many of life’s other battles simultaneously.
I ride for old teammates whose family members have passed or continue to fearlessly fight.
I ride for my study abroad roommate who endured the loss of her grandmother from over 6,000 miles away only two weeks after she had been diagnosed.
I ride for the children of Camp Kesem, whose mile-wide smiles prove the importance of community in overcoming pain, as well as the resiliency of the human heart.
I ride for every Blue Rose.