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Given to fly

Sometimes a person touches more hearts than they are ever aware of.  Sometimes their legacy lives beyond them and they impact people and animals they have never met.  This is Kimberly Schaefer.  And, this is her story from a small rescue’s perspective and the outpouring of support we have witnessed for this amazing woman.

As the Director of this small (but mighty) organization, I have the opportunity to meet many philanthropic people.  Angie Schaefer, Kim’s sister is one of these people.  In the infancy of my relationship with Gateway Pet Guardians (around 2008), I met Angie when she was in human resources for a local law firm.  That law firm had a holiday giving program that we benefited from that year.  They gave us the largest single donation we had ever received at that time in our history.  We, then reconnected around 2011/2012 when her significant other volunteered his time to be a part of a series of humorous PSAs promoting adoption and spay/neuter.   You can see the PSA here.

Next comes the exciting part!  Angie and Colin were in need of another four-legged family member and reached out to Gateway Pet Guardians to help them find it!  In July 2014, they were matched with an adorable brindle pit bull terrier type dog.  Milo’s foster family quickly started sharing more information about GPG’s mission to end homelessness for animals in the East St. Louis (and surrounding) community and Angie was hooked!  In the biz, we call it, “drinking the GPG Kool-Aid”.  Angie and Colin began fostering newly rescued pets and haven’t looked back.  Angie also serves on our Advisory Board, assists in fundraising activities and lends a hand wherever it is needed.

On the morning of March 14, 2015, I learned that Angie had lost a very special person in her life, her sister.  As I laid in bed scanning through Facebook (as I normally do before starting my day), I saw a post that both saddened me deeply and made my heart full.  Angie shared a beautiful video of her sister on her page.

Kimberly Rae Schaefer was an interpreter of American Sign Language.  The video was of Kim interpreting the song “Given to fly” by Pearl Jam on their 2000 tour in St. Louis.  Her fluid movements, the way the band watched her and the pure happiness on her face as Eddie danced with her at the end of the song, had so many emotions running through me.  Tears were flowing as I thought about the loss of such a beautiful life.

In the past month and a half since Kimberly’s passing, I have learned so much more about her.  She has a ten year old son that is full of life and love.  She also shared her sister’s passion for animal rescue and would foster deaf dogs.  She would train them using American Sign Language.  And lastly, I have learned that she had an incredible following in the Pearl Jam community.

This video made it onto the Band’s 2000 tour DVD.  It has become a fan favorite.  Many, many comments were left for her family and about the beauty of the performance.  One poster said “And how an anonymous girl becomes part (and made possible) of one of the best moments of an epic band. Love how Kim smiles here 3:26“.

Not only did the fan base send condolences and donations to Kim’s memorial.  The Vitalogy Foundation also made a generous donation to our organization.  Their administrator contacted us and said that the band and their managers felt strongly about our mission and wanted their donation to go to GPG on behalf of Kimberly!  Their donation is a true testament to Kim, her family and the impact that she has made throughout the world.

The Gateway Pet Guardians’ family can’t thank Kim’s friends, family and supporters enough for their generosity.  And to the Pearl Jam Community, thank you for recognizing the spirit Kim had.  You are all in our hearts.

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“A human being that was given to fly”


Jamie Case

There are 5 comments .

Thelma Jean Schaefer —

Thank you Jamie for the wonderful words you shared for both of my daughters. I am so very proud of both Angie and Kim. I don’t think either of them realize the impact that they have had on so many people. Kim’s will continue through all the people that remember her ….. Angie will continue to impact people through all that she does in so many facets of her life for many years to come. I love them both and have grown to appreciate them not only as my daughters but as the women they have become. <3

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Bill —

Late last night I was on the computer and had live Pearl Jam playing in the background. At some point I realized I had tears in my eyes. It took a bit before I noticed the song Given to Fly was playing. Even though I was focused on the computer the song struck something deep down. I pulled out the DVD this morning and showed Kim’s performance to my 19 year old daughter and explained just how remarkable that moment was (and still is). Too rarely do we ever witness something that transcends life, something ineffable.

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    Thelma Schaefer —

    Bill, thank you for your comment. I am Kim’s mother. We miss her everyday. Her son is doing well. We celebrated what would have been her 40th birthday at her favorite restaurant & then her friends went out dancing. She is very much alive in our hearts & life’s.

    Reply »
      Matt Renfro —

      Dear Kim’s Mom,

      I wanted to tell you that I discovered the video of Kim signing ‘Given To Fly’ just a few days ago. Your daughter is still having an impact on people. I’m sorry for your loss.


      Matt (fellow Florissant resident)

      Reply »
        Jean Schaefer —

        Thank you so much for your kind words about Kim.
        It still amazes me they way she icontinues to touch people. And it makes me happy that people remember her.
        Thank you again,
        Kim’s Mom Jean

        Reply »

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