“Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
This quote from the movie The Sandlot was a favorite of 5-year-old Ari Schultz, who died Friday, July 21 after a life-long battle with a heart condition that lead to a heart transplant in May.
His family announced his death in a Facebook post, saying, “Ari passed away peacefully this evening listening to the Red Sox.”
Ari’s mother, Erica Schultz, is a 2000 graduate of Wells High School.
“Ari is flying high with the angels, pain free and stronger than ever,” said Congdon’s Doughnuts manager Jillian Leech Shomphe, who graduated from WHS with Erica Schultz and organized a local fundraiser for the family this past spring. “He has brought so much togetherness to our little community among thousands of others around the country. His spirit will be forever remembered.”
Ari’s story went viral and was featured in publications including People magazine, after a video of him getting the news that he would receive his transplant earlier this spring captured hearts worldwide.
Just last week the family shared a video of Ari meeting his Red Sox heroes Xander Bogaerts and Christian Vazquez, and describing the time he spent at home since being released from the hospital on June 16. Ari enjoyed celebrating his sister’s birthday, and even travelled to Wells to visit his grandparents, Linda and Marvin Stritch, where he enjoyed a lobster roll at the Congdon’s After Dark food trucks.
Last Thursday morning the family posted a grave update saying “spoke too soon about looking ahead more than one day at a time. We called 911 at 4:19 a.m. as Ari was having a seizure. Very scary. At the hospital now. Something is going on. We don’t know what.”
Later that morning a second update said, “Just after 10 a.m. Ari coded in the emergency department. He had over a half an hour of CPR and has been placed on life support in the cardiac intensive care unit. Path forward unknown.”
The family announced Ari’s death the following evening. A private cemetery service was held last weekend and three visitation services took place earlier this week to accommodate all those who were touched by Ari’s story.
Ari was diagnosed at his 18-week ultrasound with critical aortic stenosis and evolving hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and underwent two heart procedures before he was even born, according the family’s website, Echo of Hope. He had undergone several surgeries and procedures and spent more than 200 days on the transplant list before receiving a new heart March 3 at Boston Children’s Hospital.
During that time the Schultz family was dealt another blow. They learned their home in Stow, Massachusetts, was full of black mold and had to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.
A fundraiser held at Congdon’s Doughnuts in May raised more than $33,000 for the family to help them rebuild their home, something that’s still necessary as Mike and Erica Schultz and their two younger children, Lexi and Eli, grieve their loss.
The week before Ari died the family watched as their home was demolished, and Mike Schultz said on his Echo of Hope blog that they received the final word from the insurance company.
“It’s officially a hole in the ground now. Bye bye house. We also got the official letter from the insurance company. Not one red cent. Ah, life,” Mike Schultz wrote in an update posted July 20, just the day before Ari died.
Shomphe and a group of friends, many of them young mothers themselves, organized the “Echo of Hope” fundraiser at Congdon’s Doughnuts on May 6. The community-wide fundraiser was a huge success with more than 150 baskets and raffle items donated by friends and businesses.
“It was so heartwarming to see the whole community turn out to support this family,” Shomphe said of the fundraiser in Wells. She added the family is still in need. “My heart hurts for them. Yes they still need funds for sure,” said
How you can still help
Ari “Danger” Day is being held Aug. 19 at Pine Bluff Recreation Center in Stow to celebrate Ari’s life. The event will include a barbecue, a variety of brews and wines from local beer companies and wineries, live music, kids activities and games, volleyball, corn hole, bocce, horseshoes and swimming, raffles and more.
To learn more about the event, including where to purchase tickets go to the Ari “Danger” Schultz Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dangerschultz/.
The event, sponsored by The Greg Hill Foundation and Battle Road Brewing Company, will celebrate Ari’s life and help support the Schultz family.
“We will think of him with every Red Sox home run and every New England sports team win. Grand Slam, little Ari. You will be missed,” Shomphe wrote in a tribute on the Congdon’s Facebook page following the news of his death.