Student brings ‘Zaching’ back

On April 8, 2015 at 12:45 p.m. students, faculty and other Columbia community members will be joining together on the MU Francis Quadrangle to take a mass “Zaching” photo in his memory.
MU students at the MizzouThon dance marathon pose for a photo while “Zaching” Saturday, March 14, 2015 in Columbia, Mo. Courtesy of Tanzi Propst

Twenty-year-old Zach Lederer of Maryland lost his life to brain cancer on March 11, 2014.

He left his mark on the world, in the form of a pose known as “Zaching.”

“The purpose of ‘Zaching’ was to show his family and friends that he was doing well,” his sister, Julia Lederer, said.

“Zaching” spread quickly across the Internet. Every day, people across the country and celebrities ranging from CNN’s Anderson Cooper to music artist Lil Wayne posted photos of themselves “Zaching.”

“It was to show cancer patients strength and encouragement,” Julia Lederer said.

In memory of Zach Lederer, friend and MU student Zack Newman said he got a tattoo that says “LTD” on his right bicep.

“I have ‘LTD,’ because whenever you would ask how he was doing he would always say ‘Living the Dream,’” he said. “That’s the sign of positivity that I want to bring into my life.”

It is a constant reminder as well, and Newman said he is conscious of Zach’s fight and optimism daily.

“Life gets hard and you start to get down on yourself,” Newman said, “And then, I’ll see in the mirror the bottom of the tattoo starting to show through, and so it’s like ‘Okay, Zack, take a deep breath, get back to it, and keep going.’”

Newman met Zach Lederer, the basketball team’s manager, while covering his boys’ basketball beat for his high school newspaper. During their time in high school, Newman said Lederer took him under his wing and made him feel included in the team.

Since Zach Lederer’s death, “Zaching” has been happening less and less; however, Newman plans to change that just as he did before.

“My personal plan is to just keep talking about it as much as possible and partnering with organizations, like MizzouThon, who are willing to take up the mantle and make it be even bigger,” Newman said.

MizzouThon began promoting “Zaching” this year. At its big event on March 14, MizzouThon had a booth with T-shirts and a sign-up sheet for the picture on the Francis Quadrangle in April.

“I’m really glad that we’ve partnered with ‘Zaching,’” MizzouThon President Sophie Lustman said. “We have a lot of kids who I know just have to sit back, and they feel weak sometimes. We don’t want them to, and we want their community to understand that we are here for them and we can be their strength.”

Lustman said she believes MU and its community is an excellent area to spread this symbol of hope.

“I think it’s important for Mizzou to become a part of the culture that stands for other people,” she said. “We have so many selfless students, and it’s a really great community to reach out to and get them to stand up for a cause that’s equally amazing.”

Newman said the message for the cause is “Hope and Determination.”

“(Zach Lederer) beat it once,” Newman said. “He fought and fought and fought, and when it came around again, he said it was just another opportunity. He had so much going against him and he still had a smile on his face.”

Julia Lederer agreed, and said no matter how hard the circumstances, her brother always kept a positive attitude.

“You never heard him complain or ask, ‘Why me?,’” she said. “He was remarkable.”

Newman and Zach Lederer shared a mutual respect for Muhammad Ali, and during Lederer’s last round of chemotherapy, he shared with Newman his favorite quote from the famous boxer:

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now, and live your life of a champion.’”

“He was grateful for cancer,” Newman said. “Because he said that it gave him the opportunity to show God and the world that he was worthy of living this life.”

Newman said he strives to model and spread Zach Lederer’s positivity, and described his gestures of kindness to him in high school as the epitome of who Zach Lederer truly was throughout his life.

“I simply can’t do him justice,” Newman said.

At 12:45 p.m. on April 8, students, faculty and community members will be joining together on the Quad to take a mass “Zaching” photo in his memory.

“I’m just excited that there’s a new pool of people who haven’t heard Zach’s story who will because of this,” Newman said. “And will hopefully be inspired to bring kindness into their everyday life. The potential is mind-blowing, and it could be one of the biggest ‘Zaching’ pictures that people have taken.”

Zach Lederer may have left this world, but his memory still lives on through Newman and others who are willing to continue to fight for hope.

“Zach has inspired me to bring more kindness into my life and to try to be more positive,” Newman said. “I think that this event will help share just a bit of that optimism with other people, and if they share that with some other people and it spreads, then I think that I’ve done it right. Mission accomplished.”

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