Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward
April 08, 2020

Finding Beauty in Tragedy

Family Finds Ways to Live Fully After 2 Kids Diagnosed with Terminal Disease

When it comes to living life fully, the Kasners don’t wait until the timing’s right. After 2 of their children were diagnosed with an aggressive, life-threatening disease, they take every opportunity they can to make each moment count. And a Pay It Forward donation from Bell helps them do just that.

Kashers Kick Duchenne
Kashers Kick Duchenne
Kashers Kick Duchenne

“It’s things like that where you can know we have this big community where when we’re down, it’s kind of lifting us up.” – Sarah Kasner, Pay It Forward recipient

Bell Employee

Tom Shannon

Mortgage Loan Officer

Minneapolis

Recipients

Sarah, Dan, Caleb and Duncan Kasner  

The Need

When Sarah and Dan Kasner’s son Caleb was born in 2013, he had to spend a couple of weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit due to a heart condition. A couple of years passed, and the Kasners noticed Caleb wasn’t meeting developmental milestones.

Then, in 2018, blood tests revealed Caleb had Duchenne muscular dystrophy – an aggressive, terminal form of muscular dystrophy, which causes progressive weakness and loss of skeletal and heart muscles.

After Caleb was diagnosed, one of the specialists asked if he had any siblings. Blood tests showed his younger brother, Duncan, also has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“I don’t think a day has gone by when we haven’t thought about it,” Sarah remarks.

Treatments can help control symptoms, but there is no known cure for the disease. The average lifespan of someone with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is typically 18-22, and people are often wheelchair-bound by age 12.

The Impact

Bell Bank Mortgage lender Tom Shannon met and became good friends with Dan through golf lessons.

After reading an emotional social media post about how hard it was for Sarah to see that her boys couldn’t keep up with other neighborhood kids as they ran around on Halloween, Tom decided to donate his Pay It Forward funds to the Kasners.

“It’s been a privilege to work for a company that allows us to do this,” Tom comments. “It’s been very much a blessing.”

Tom wanted the family to be able to use the funds for whatever they need – whether medical equipment or a family trip.

“I would say we are living very differently since their diagnosis,” Sarah explains. “For us to just get up and go on a trip, we can do it, because of stuff like this, but also because we know that that’s going to get harder and harder to be able to do. It feels intentional, like we’re living for a purpose. It’s kind of a beautiful thing out of a terrible thing.”

“We don’t hang out and worry about the little things,” adds Dan. “We go out and do, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Sara and Dan also created the advocacy group Kasners Kick Duchenne to raise awareness about the disease.

“It’s a way for us to feel like we’re doing something,” Sarah notes. “If we don’t do that, we’re kind of doing nothing, it feels like, and just watching them progress.”

Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell Bank gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.