The son of Mandy and Haven Shaw of Bell Buckle was born with complex congenital heart defects. From his fourth day of life through last week, he has undergone six surgeries to repair heart defects.
As a result, Will effectively has a single ventricle heart. Another surgery is planned for next year, and ultimately he will require a heart transplant when he is old enough and strong enough to undergo the procedure.
Mandy, a 1992 graduate of Cascade High School, and her husband moved to Great Falls, Mont. to pursue their careers a few years ago. It was there Mandy gave birth to her sons Walt, 6, Boone, 4, and on Aug. 26 of last year, baby Will.
When the complexity of Will's heart defects brought them to Vanderbilt for surgery, the doctors there gave Mandy a tough bit of advice, "His doctors suggested we not return to Montana," she said, "There are no hospitals or surgeons there that are capable of caring for him, should something go wrong."
When her friends look for a bright spot, they cite Mandy's status as a surgical nurse practitioner. Surely her medical training prepared her for this. "Actually, I'm not sure if that makes it easier," she said. "Knowing and understanding everything the doctors are saying and doing can be terrifying."
With the need for medical insurance being an absolute in their lives, Haven remains in Montana while Mandy balances Will's day-to-day care against the typical needs of their two other active boys.
Mandy knows only that the family will walk through whatever comes with their faith, "God has brought us this far, he will get us through."
If this is a story about resilience and the strength of human spirit, it is also a story about paying it forward. Rob Morton is a long-time friend of the family -- a family which "has always been there when I needed some help," he said. When he realized the enormity and impossibility of the financial and medical crisis the Shaw family is facing, he knew only that he had to do the right thing.
A stock contractor who retired from bull riding due to an injury six years ago, he approached his friend and business partner for Circle P Bucking Bulls, John Puckett, about arranging a benefit.
"When you have been given to like this family has given to others, we wanted to give back and help the family out," said Morton.
Riding for Will, a bulls and barrels event, will be held Friday and Saturday at Clearview Arena , Hwy. 231 South, at 8 each evening. All proceeds from the event go to benefit the Shaw family to assist with medical bills and living expenses. The event is sanctioned by the Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association.
On Friday after bull riding, popular local group Rayz-N-Cain will perform. On Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. a "best-dressed" competition will be held for cowboys and cowgirls. The children may also want to try their hand at mutton-busting -- where children may emulate the adult riders, but on a sheep.
Morton is bringing along a bull named Tooth Fairy, who has gained fame for rearranging the dental work of some riders.
To assist the family, an account in the name of Amanda Shaw for the Will Shaw Benefit has been established at First Community Bank.