Sobiech tribute recognizes local, national inspiration

There was a special addition to the Packer-Viking game this Sunday, one that rose above the infamous green and purple rivalry. During the first timeout of the second quarter, a “Hometown Hero” award was presented and the song “Clouds” was played throughout Minneapolis’ Metrodome.

Some of you may remember last spring when the name Zach Sobiech and his story were spreading around Facebook, news stories and iTunes, most prominently with his singing voice and guitar playing in his song “Clouds.” After fighting osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, for 3.5 years, Zach Sobiech passed away at age 18, though his videos and posts have continued to share his story long after his live performances came to an end.

In addition to cheering on the Minnesota Vikings, songwriting and performing music were passions of Sobiech’s, which led him to build a relationship with Twin Cities radio station KS95, who offered to record Sobiech’s “Clouds.” After finding out that he had mere months to live, his mother encouraged him to write letters to say goodbye. Feeling reluctant, he began writing songs instead and “Clouds” became his way of finding closure and saying goodbye to his loved ones.

Zach performed “Clouds” countless times for classmates, family, radio listeners and friends. In many concerts, both of this song and others, he performed with childhood friends who shared his love of music-making. His group “A Firm Handshake” recorded an album and performed at cancer fundraisers and local shows until Sobiech was too sick to play.

First a household name in his hometown, Lakeland, MN, his song and story were soon playing throughout the state, the country and the world. On YouTube, a short documentary about him now has 10.3 million hits, a celebrity-made tribute video has 3.2 million hits, and “Clouds” has 8.3 million views. After his death, “Clouds” became the No. 1 rock song in the country, according to Billboard magazine, and it sat at No. 1 on iTunes charts for four days.

The proceeds from the sale of “Clouds” and YouTube views are donated to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund.

At Sunday’s Vikings game, Sobiech’s parents accepted the “Hometown Hero” award for their son, an award given out to one hero at each regular season Vikings home game. It goes without saying that Sobiech’s story reflects a true hero, inspiring millions around him despite adversity and hardship.

During one of his last days, Sobiech got to share the field with his favorite team when he and his girlfriend had a picnic on the 50-yard line of the Metrodome, a day described by his mother as one of his happiest. On Sunday, he again brought joy to the walls of Metrodome and all those within.

Sobiech was a student of Stillwater Area High School, near the Twin Cities; and, as a fellow Stillwater student with a younger sister who was a classmate of Zach’s, seeing his story spread was truly magical. From attending high school “Coffee House” performances where Zach and his friends performed to hearing his name casually mentioned by New York locals last summer, I and anyone touched by his story not only felt the power of music, but also the beauty of Zach Sobiech’s spirit.

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