Website Helps Share Information With Family, Community During Illness

EAU CLAIRE, Wisconsin  --  In the age of social media, it's very easy to get updates on those you care about. One website, CaringBridge, has a specific purpose when it comes to keeping people in the loop.

The site works as a journal for helping those who are ill or their family members communicate throughout the journey, according to WEAU's Jesse Horne.

"When they came to do his Make-A-Wish, he didn't ask for anything for himself. He asked for something that would benefit or be nice for the whole family to use," said Kat Schilling, whose son, Zachary Hartsell, battled stage four Ewing's sarcoma.

Early in Zachary's treatment, Schilling was made aware of CaringBridge.org, which allows family members and friends to get information about a loved one's condition. The website was founded two decades ago by Sona Mehring, a University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire alum, who credits changing to a computer science major for part of the site's genesis.

"And also took that love of technology with the love of being able to think about how can technology help people, and instantly started using technology to help people," said Mehring.

Mehring started this at the start of the internet revolution, but says her site is more important now in today's tech-heavy world.

"I think today there's a lot of negativity around this connection, but I think there's more positivity that is brought with people coming together with love and support than anything that's negative about it," she said.

Zachary's fight ended with his death in March of 2012, but his mom says he knew the site was serving a valuable purpose.

"One person posted right away and said "I'm so sorry you're going through this, but I just want you to know that as a result I hug my kids more and we've been praying more," and Zachary's response was, 'well, at least if something good comes out of me being sick, at least there's that," said Schilling.

As well as being able to post about your current condition and things you need, CaringBridge also gives the option to post about GoFundMe or other fundraising campaigns.