A Story of #CCSDfam Kindness and Gratitude Even Through Tragedy
On the morning of Sept. 16, Bonnie Schroeder, a paraprofessional at Sixes Elementary School for 21 years, received a call at work that her husband had been in a terrible accident.
The Sixes administration team stayed with her and comforted her until her daughter and son-in-law could arrive to take her to the hospital. Once she arrived there, she learned the terrible news: Bob, her husband of 38 years, had passed away.
That same morning, Liz Smith, who teaches at Woodstock High School, was on her way to work when she came upon the accident. Without hesitation, she jumped out of her car and ran to the scene.
“I never considered not stopping,” Ms. Smith said. “I was an EMT and emergency room nurse before I became a teacher and recognized from the vehicle damage that the injuries could be severe.”
First-responders had not yet arrived, and Ms. Smith knew, based on the location, that it would take time for them to get there, and Mr. Schroeder’s injuries were serious.
“I held his hand and asked him his name and age,” Ms. Smith said. “I tried to keep him conscious until help arrived. The paramedics arrived, and, just before they picked him up to put him on the stretcher, he made eye contact with me one last time.”
She headed to Woodstock High School, but had a hard time focusing on her work, as all she could think about was the man and his family. When his name was released, a coworker suggested she check social media.
There, she found Ms. Schroeder’s profile and realized they were already part of the same family – the CCSD family. She saw they had mutual friends, and asked one to tell Ms. Schroeder what had happened and to share her contact information.
“I wanted Bonnie to know that Bob wasn’t alone and that I was available if she ever had any questions,” Ms. Smith said.
When Ms. Schroeder learned about Ms. Smith, she immediately wanted to speak with her. She wanted to let her know how much she appreciated what she did, when most people would have kept driving, not knowing how they could help other than by calling 911.
Ms. Smith’s act of kindness meant so much to Ms. Schroeder, that, even in her sorrow, she wanted to thank her and do something special for her.
“You have no clue what Liz means to myself and my family,” Ms. Schroeder said. “Just knowing my husband was held, cared for and prayed over is such a blessing! I am so thankful Liz was with him until he took his last breath.”
Ms. Schroeder went to Sixes Elementary School Principal Dr. Ashley Kennerly for advice on how she could show her gratitude. Dr. Kennerly reached out to the Sixes PTA, which, in turn, reached out to the community and local business partners. Those partners generously provided gift certificates for Ms. Schroeder to give Ms. Smith.
Sixes Elementary School and Woodstock High School administrators worked together to arrange for Ms. Schroeder and her daughter to go to Woodstock High School to meet and thank Ms. Smith in a private setting.
“The first thing I wanted to do was hug her neck and look into the eyes of the last person my husband’s eyes ever saw,” Ms. Schroeder said. “As soon as she walked into the room, I just hugged her and didn’t let go. There are angels on this earth, and I believe I met one.”
Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and an unbreakable bond was formed.
“I was so happy to be able to meet Bonnie and her daughter in person and hug them,” Ms. Smith said. “The gifts and flowers were such a touching gesture. I was so moved by the fact that with the gifts, Bonnie wanted me to spend time with my daughter and be reminded of how precious every minute of every day is.”
Ms. Schroeder is also thankful to the entire Sixes community and everyone who has supported her and her family over the past several months.
“Sometimes, in my line of work, you can get down and feel unappreciated; but, boy have I felt the love of this community!” she said. “The entire community has done so much for me. They started a GoFundMe account that saved me! I wasn’t sure how I was going to get by; we depended on my husband’s income. His legacy is our home that he had just built. Every piece of wood in that house was built by my husband’s hands, and the community’s kindness saved me.”
Dr. Kennerly said their story is a story of the power of kindness and the importance of community.
“In a time of such great loss for our school family, Ms. Smith’s act of kindness provided a level of comfort to Ms. Schroeder and her family that cannot be replaced,” she said. “We want to publicly thank Ms. Smith for her act of kindness to someone who was a complete stranger to her. We never know how far reaching our kindness will be. Our community has rallied around Ms. Schroeder in her time of tragedy to remind her how loved she is and the impact she has had on our Sixes community. I am so proud to work for CCSD, where we love one another, support one another and show kindness to those around us.”