Rock Solid

A Story of Cancer, a Community, and a Cause

This is a story about a family, a business, and a community. It is a story of heartache and heroism, shattering and sharing, receiving and reciprocating. It is the story of how, in the face of tragedy, a community came together to support a family and, in return, that family has made helping the community their business.

Let’s start at the beginning. Chris Cazier owns Modern Masonry, LLC in Topeka. They specialize in masonry repair and maintenance, custom, pre-built mailboxes and outdoor entertainment areas (think retaining walls, patios, fire pits and outdoor kitchens). After he graduated from Shawnee Heights High School, he went to work for his buddy’s dad who owned a masonry company. “Yeah, I was like, ‘I guess I’ll do that until I figure out what I want to do,’” he said, laughing. “I ran work for other people for a few years, and in 2013, I decided to start my own company, and here we are.”  

Meanwhile, Chris met his wife, Jaclyn Schreiner, an ICU nurse, in 2009. She, too, is a Topeka native who graduated from Seaman High School. And yes, she is related to the Schreiners in the concrete industry. The two were introduced by Jaclyn’s cousin and a whirlwind romance ensued. “Everything went really fast with us,” Jaclyn said. “We had seven dates in a row, got engaged six months later and married a year after that.” Because both spouses come from close-knit families, (both sets of parents live nearby and Chris works with his twin brother) creating a family of their own was an easy decision. By 2014, they were raising twin boys Carson and Mason, a daughter, Kendall, and just before Christmas of 2014, they welcomed a son, Blake. Life was pretty sweet. 

Then, the day after Christmas and three days after his first birthday, Blake was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Their lives were turned upside down. “I would be at the hospital for a month with him getting chemo, home for a week, and then back at the hospital,” Jaclyn said. Thankfully, the cancer went into remission. Blake relapsed in March, but was finally able to go home that summer. “In early summer of 2016 Blake got to spend time at home with his family. “He loved being outside, riding in the golf cart, splashing in the water, looking for cows. He loved cows,” his mom shared. “It was the best summer of our lives. He finally got to be a little boy.”

 Unfortunately, he relapsed again on July 4th and was sent to Children’s Mercy. This time, he needed a bone marrow transplant. Thanks to selfless donors from the community, he received the transplant in September and spent another 100 days in the hospital. After that, they moved to the Ronald McDonald house. Mercifully, he and Jaclyn were able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas at home surrounded by family. He celebrated his second birthday on Dec. 23rd, cancer-free. But it was to be a short-lived victory. Once more, the relentless cancer returned. Little Blake was flown to Cincinnati to take part in a trial program with new medication. Sadly, the treatment was unsuccessful and Blake passed away on March 7, 2017. 

Devastated, Chris and Jaclyn said goodbye to their sweet baby boy. They slowly began to heal. Chris turned to what he knows best - construction and masonry. He threw himself into remodeling their home. He started with the basement after Blake died. Soon, they were adding a back patio, firepit and outdoor fireplace. Then they added a tennis/basketball court and built a pool and pool house. “We built the pool house in the winter,” Chris said. “We just tented it in and my dad came over to help me finish it.” They have since added an area above the garage and also extended the house on the opposite end. Their home has become their refuge from the world. “After everything that happened with Blake, we realized how precious family time is,” said Jaclyn. “Just to be able to sit at the table and enjoy meal time together.”

Fast forward to today and the Crazier’s are going strong. They have expanded their family by two - daughter Lauren is 3 (“Six if you ask her,” Jaclyn said.) and Luke who is 10 months. With so many kids, it only made sense to build them a place where they can run and play outside, so just down the hill from the house, nestled in the trees, is a recreation area. This outdoor adventure camp features everything a kid could dream of, including a swing set, a three-story treehouse above a shady sandbox, swinging hammocks, a zip line, bonfire area, picnic tables, a snack shack, and lots of things to climb on. “We’ve created this little oasis to enjoy with family and friends,” said Jaclyn. 

Jaclyn said they are forever grateful to the Topeka community for their help and support during their time of need. “The community just came in and surrounded us. They had fundraiser after fundraiser - golf tournaments, chili suppers…we really felt the love and support and it meant so much to us,” she shared. “It allowed us to spend time with the kids and not worry so much about medical bills and reality. We know firsthand how important that is, so we wanted to give back.”

And give back, they have. They created a non-profit foundation to honor Blake’s memory. It’s called Team Blake, and its mission is to help other children in NE Kansas facing cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. “We understand what they are going through,” Chris said. “It’s a lot!” From medical expenses to household bills, the Team Blake Foundation helps families trying to survive the unimaginable. They send care packages to sick kids, provide spiritual and emotional support, donate to other charities like the Ronald McDonald House and pediatric cancer research. “We’ve been able to donate $109,000 so far,” Jaclyn said. “It’s where our heart is and since we can give back, that’s what we want to do.”

Team Blake will hold its 7th Annual Team Blake Memorial Golf Tournament on September 11th at GreatLIFE Golf. To learn more, visit Team Blake on Facebook or the foundation’s website at ForeverTeamBlake.com.

The Caziers have been married for 10 years now and are still going strong. The overwhelming grief and emotional toll of losing a child, especially at such a young age, can tear some couples apart, but in this instance, with the help of a supportive family and a caring community, they have managed to not only survive, but thrive. It’s no surprise, with Chris coming from a masonry background and Jaclyn from a concrete background, that the family they built is rock solid. 

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