Living for Zachary

The bond between a mother and her son is said to last a lifetime. But in the case of Karen Schrah and her late son, Zachary, this bond has carried far beyond his lifetime, helping save numerous lives in the process.

Zachary’s life came to an abrupt end April 2, 2009 while he was practicing football at Plano East Senior High. No one suspected this popular 16-year-old had a health problem – a congenital heart disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) – which caused him to collapse on the field from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Adult athletic trainers, as well as student trainers, were unable to revive the Clark High School sophomore, who was slated to play on the Plano East varsity team his junior year.

The story of the Living for Zachary organization started right then and has continued to grow each year.

A quote from Zac and his photos fill Karen’s memory boards // photos Esther Huynh

“When Zachary passed away, and we were at the hospital with friends and coaches, we prayed as a group. During this time of visiting with Zachary’s friends, I got this overwhelming feeling that I had to do something,” Karen explained. “Something bigger was going to come from Zachary’s death.”

Many of Zachary’s acquaintances wanted to know why he died, and Karen wanted to know what could be done to help prevent other SCA deaths.

Through donations, foundations and sponsored events, the organization has been able to purchase 206 Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for various schools, youth sports organizations and camps. A total of 973 individuals have received their Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPA) certification through the organization.

Living for Zachary helps fund life-saving AEDs for schools and youth camps

But the efforts to save lives do not stop there. Through the collaboration of Living for Zachary, Walgreens and The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, young people ages 12-22 are able to receive non-invasive heart screenings, hoping to detect heart abnormalities that may lead to SCA. At the Living for Zachary Health Fair on Feb. 8, youths can receive free screenings at Children’s Health Plano. To register a youth for the health screenings, call 469-814-3565 and dial option 4.

Living for Zachary helps youths get screened for heart abnormalities // courtesy Living for Zachary

Zachary had aspirations to become a doctor, so to keep his legacy alive, the organization annually donates thousands of scholarship dollars to local graduates, athletes and Collin College students.

Zachary’s high school teammate, Jake Brendel, currently plays for the Miami Dolphins and wears #64, Zachary’s high school football number. Jake will be the Guest of Honor at the upcoming, black-tie Living for Zachary HeartBeats Gala Feb. 24. Bethann and Doran Roberts are chairs of the 2018 event, which offers cocktails, dining, live and silent auctions and live music. 

Karen, who graduated from Plano East in 1986, feels a certain tie to the school because of Zachary and her alma mater. She even has a grandson attending the Plano East Pre-School.

“[Zachary’s] friends at school said they questioned why he passed away, but now know there is good from it,” Karen continued. “I had a choice to be angry or pro-active, so I took the high road, knowing from the moment he passed, I needed to do something.” 

Continuing the Living for Zachary legacy has helped Karen cope with the loss of her determined son. “God’s hands have been in this organization,” she said. “God prepared me for this.”

Participants in the annual HeartBeats Run fundraiser // courtesy Living for Zachary

Zachary had a way to show others he cared. Not long before his death, Zachary passed a note to a female classmate who was experiencing a difficult time. In this note, he wrote, “Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”

And so the bond between Karen and her son, Zachary, lives on.


To register for the upcoming Living for Zachary HeartBeats Gala Feb. 24, go to the website below. 

HeartBeats Gala > Living for Zachary >
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