Prep Sports

'Win the Day' remains a big deal at Liberty High School

HS journalism: Community honors legacy of 'Flash' Schroeder

NORTH LIBERTY — The phrase, Win The Day has lots of meanings in our community and throughout the country from a collegiate football team to a cancer battle.

In our community, Win The Day refers to Austin Schroeder, a 15-year-old who died in 2015 after a battle with T-Cell Lymphoma cancer.

Craig Schroeder, father of Austin and Liberty junior Cody Schroeder, first used the “Win the Day” mantra when he coached Austin’s 12-and-under club baseball team. After winning roughly 90 percent of its games, the team started to struggle in 2012. Craig started looking for ways to inspire his players.

Craig decided to look to Austin’s favorite football team, the Oregon Ducks, for inspiration. Oregon had came up with the motto WTD in 2009 when Chip Kelly took over as head coach. The meaning was to simply win each and everything you do in life.

Craig would bring a whiteboard to practices and games with two sayings that helped define WTD — “attitude & effort” and “shake & bake.”

Some believe there are two things people can control in life — attitude and effort. Craig constantly reminded his team that no matter how uncontrollable obstacles in life can be, your effort and your attitude are always up to you.

“It doesn’t matter what sport you are playing,” he said. “No matter the score at the end of each game, ask yourself, did I give my best effort? Was I the best teammate I could be? Did I play with, and did I win or lose with good sportsmanship?”

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“Shake & bake” comes from the movie Talladega Nights, and was a reminder to always have fun. Mistakes are going to happen, and people are always going to get knocked down in life, but it’s ultimately how they respond. After facing adversity, the way you respond shows the type of person you are.

After developing this mind-set, the Schroeders knew they could take on all challenges life has to offer. Little did they know, the challenge they were about to face was the most difficult one yet.

After a spring break trip to Mexico in 2014, Austin had complained about a golf ball sized lump in his groin. In so much pain Austin could barely walk, Craig took him to the hospital where they treated it as an infection due to a scrape on his foot. After more swelling, Austin went in for biopsies.

In April of that year, when Austin was 14 years old, he was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma, a rare type of cancer that is found in the white blood cells. Austin, also known as “Flash” from baseball since early childhood, was in for the fight of his life.

“I don’t think I was prepared to accept a cancer diagnosis,” said Anne Johnson, a close family friend. “I was so afraid of what the outcome could possibly be, that I was driven to stay focus on one day at a time.”

With the family having full faith in the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, they agreed it is where Austin would start treatment immediately. They began with chemotherapy regimens for 30 days, which is a common cancer treatment. The treatment was unsuccessful. Instead of seeing signs the cancer was shrinking, it persisted and continued to grow. The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital then partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to provide Austin with treatment specific to his cancer that had never before been provided at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Right after undergoing a second round of chemotherapy, Austin got to play what would be his final baseball game ever. Austin then went through a bone-marrow transplant.

About 30 days after the transplant, Austin was able to go home for about a month but, while at home, he had a seizure, which brought him back to the hospital. The doctors told the family the cancer was still there and it was bigger than it had been before. The cancer had spread into his brain and continued to grow in his abdomen and chest. After returning from the intensive care unit, he needed to reach certain health requirements to be eligible to receive another round of chemotherapy.

After about 30 days of being confined in his room, Austin was healthy enough to walk around the hospital. However, he would periodically need to stop to catch his breath. At one of the stops, Craig and Stacy Schroeder, mother of the boys, sat down and had a little talk. Their main focus was WTD and his cancer.

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“We listed all the positives we had that day,” Craig said. “He was alive. We got to leave the unit and go for a walk. We can hug each other and tell each other that we love each other. No matter how tough a day seems, we just need to find one positive and focus on that.

“That cancer doesn’t get to decide what a win is; we do.”

Later into his fight, Austin told Craig and Stacy it was unfair that younger kids have to go through what he was going through. He said he was going to beat cancer and come back to the children’s hospital to talk to the kids about WTD and never giving up.

After a long hard fought battle, Austin died on April 28, 2015, a day the Schroeder family will never forget.

There are two things about that date. If you add up all the digits of the date 4/28/2015 it equals 22, Austin’s number in all sports. April 28 also is national superhero day, and Austin’s nickname was Flash.

In honor of Austin, the Schroeder family started the Fight With Flash Foundation. This foundation carries on Austin’s wish to help other kids and families that unfortunately have to battle this horrible disease called cancer.

Although Austin is not with us today, his message lives on. To this day, he continues to impact lives in our community.

“We see it from all the texts, calls, messages, conversations and posts that people give. That Austin has touched their hearts, that he has given them so much hope, and brought so much love and understanding to their lives,” Craig said.

To carry on Austin’s legacy, the family speaks at many dance marathons around Iowa and holds events around Iowa City to help raise money and awareness. There is the Fight With Flash Crosstown Baseball Classic and an annual golf outing at Brown Deer.

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If you are interested in helping honor Flash, you can join Liberty High Difference Makers. They donate part of their grand total to the Fight With Flash Foundation.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.