custom football cleats

A winning ‘pair’: Stephanie Schierloh honors mom with special cleats

Feb 9, 2021
Empower Features

Think about how often you suddenly draw a blank as you’re getting ready to sign in to one of your online accounts.

You know the feeling.

Eventually, to gain access to your personal information, maybe you call for assistance, reset your PIN or answer an identification question. Or, perhaps you refresh your memory and remember your login credentials. From there, you likely go on about your day without giving the episode any further thought.

“It happens to everyone, right?” said Stephanie Schierloh, who is a security relationship manager for Empower.

“It never seems like a big deal.”

But for Schierloh’s mom, who passed away last July from a malignant brain tumor, it turned out to be a very big deal.

As part of the company’s internal “My Cause My Cleats” campaign, Schierloh nominated the MD Anderson Moon Shots Program to honor her mom and raise awareness for glioblastoma — an aggressive form of brain cancer for which there is no cure. During the final phase of the contest, which included more than 1,000 votes from associates, Schierloh earned the most tallies and won a customized pair of colorful football cleats that feature her mom’s full name and promote the nonprofit entity.

With input and insight from Schierloh, the cleats were designed by a local Denver artist who also partners with many players on the Denver Broncos during the NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” event each season.

“I want to do anything I can to help fight all the terrible things that can completely destroy people’s lives,” said Schierloh, who started at Empower in 2005. “For me, this is a pretty awesome way to bring more attention to such an awful condition. It’s gut-wrenching to experience and leads to so much pain.”

For Schierloh, her world changed on Memorial Day in 2020 when a routine task ended up being far from routine for her mom.

Schierloh’s mom, who was age 70 and “totally happy and healthy” at the time, was having issues logging on to her work computer from home. She texted Schierloh stating that, for some weird reason, she couldn’t remember her password. Her mom was scared. She was confused. She was worried. After all, her mom’s cousin died of a stroke earlier in 2020, so there was the fear that she could suffer one, too.

“I thought she was just paranoid,” Schierloh said. “I figured it was nothing. I even told her, ‘I’m sure it’s fine.’” Her mom, also wasn’t showing any other serious symptoms like trouble talking, walking or seeing.

Still, as a precaution, Schierloh took her mom to the hospital where tests ultimately revealed a giant mass on the right side of her mom’s brain. “It was out of control,” Schierloh said. So out of control that, following medical evaluation, her mom was diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma tumor that was expanding in size.  

Worst of all, it was termed inoperable. 

“There was nothing the doctors could do to treat it,” Schierloh said. “It was growing at an extremely rapid pace. My mom went from being a normal person to being gone in seven weeks. Her mental decline was horrible.”

Despite the heartache, Schierloh is committed to paying tribute to her mom’s life and cherishing the special bond they built as a family. That means holding on to all the fond memories that define  Schierloh, her sister and her mom, like the road trips to North Dakota, the skiing in Colorado and the snorkeling in Mexico. Don’t forget cheering for the Broncos in the fall or cooking a homemade meal in the kitchen.

In fact, Schierloh, her sister and her mom were so close that they were often referred to as “The Three Amigos” by their friends and peers. “We did everything together,” Schierloh said. “We always had a blast. Now we’re missing one of the amigos — which is really hard on us. But we won’t ever stop celebrating her.”

Schierloh’s new cleats will help them fulfill that promise, too.

“They’re going to help my mom’s spirit live on,” said Schierloh, adding that she intends on saving the unique shoes for her 3-year-old son and his future sports career. “They mean a lot to me and my family.

“We’ll hang on to them forever.”

Empower’s version of “My Cause My Cleats,” which was inspired by the NFL’s annual celebration,

kicked off with employees highlighting their favorite organizations and promoting their powerful purposes. From a long list of submissions, four charities were randomly chosen to each receive a financial donation from Empower. Associates then elected Schierloh and the Moon Shots Program as the overall champion.

Last year, Empower won Denver Broncos nose tackle Mike Purcell’s patriotic cleats that benefitted the Wounded Warrior Project.

“We really wanted to engage with our employees virtually and connect back to social impact,” said Angie Ruddell, engagement and corporate social responsibility manager. “It was great to have so many people share the causes they’re passionate about and tell their stories. Our associates are dedicated to taking action.”

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