Colton Steinhorst was just 2 1/2 years old when doctors discovered a tumor in his stomach. His tiny body endured chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, and a stem cell transplant.
"It's horrible watching such a little person that hasn't really got to live life go through something like that," says Colton's mother, Tara.
Colton went into remission, but it only lasted a few months. The cancer then spread to his bones. Clinical trials didn't work.
Colton, now 4 1/2 years old, made a bucket list. He ended up flying an airplane and driving a race car. He organized a huge water balloon fight for the community and gave flowers to a stranger.
"He said, 'Mom, I really just want to see somebody that I don't know smile. I want to let them know to have a good day," explains Tara.
On September 3rd, 2013, Colton passed away.
"He kept a really positive attitude and outlook on life, and that's kind of how I try to live my life now," says Tara.
She finds healing through the foundation she created that's named after her son. Through Colton's Cure, more than 200 families have received monetary assistance.
"If it means going to buy a pizza with the financial grant, or it means paying a medical bill that might ease the burden of the financial situation, that for them is such a relief," says Tara.
Erin Jeltema serves on the board for Colton's Cure and helps organize numerous fundraisers. The group sells brats, holds a golf outing each September, and puts on a Winter Gala at Lambeau Field. They've raised $150,000 so far to support families dealing with cancer. One of their activities is handing out "Chemo Bags" to children in the hospital that contain homemade blankets, gas cards, and toys.
"I know Colton is looking down on them just smiling and saying, 'That's my mom. That's my family, and they're doing it in my honor, and they're succeeding and helping other families," Jeltema said with tears in her eyes.
Nearly three years after his death, Tara still puts on a free water balloon fight for the community and hands out the flowers her son no longer can.
"It makes me feel that we're keeping Colton and what he would want alive, so it kind of gives me peace," Tara says.
She hopes it will inspire others, including Colton's three younger siblings, to spread joy in the world, because that's what Colton would have wanted.
The 4th annual water balloon fight, with 10,000 balloons, is Tuesday, August 23rd at Pioneer Park in Ashwaubenon. It's a free event and runs from 6:00 to 8:00pm. There will also be face painting, games, fire trucks and more.
The Colton's Cure Golf Outing is on September 17th. Click here for more information.