The Feature is Female: Holly Schell

“It all worked out in God’s timing and in Grace’s timing. It’s really hard not to see the miracle within the grief.” – Holly Schell

Grief can be a monster. It can take so much away from you without you ever really realizing what all you’ve lost. For Holly Schell, grief is a monster she tackles everyday. How does she tackle it? That’s simple. She tackles it with grace.

2020 was a year no one will soon forget. Beginning in March, the world shut down. With everyone sheltered in place, there was little to see and even less to do. As the months flew by, things slowly began opening back up, and we all became accustomed to our “new normal”. For a certain Liberty family, they didn’t realize that the new normal they had just adjusted to would soon be altered once more.

October 4, 2020 started out like any other day. For 15-year-old Grace Schell, it was a day she met with eagerness and positivity, much like she did most of her days. Schell and her boyfriend were celebrating 1 month together, so Grace, full of anticipation, asked her parents if she could go hunting with him. They agreed, so she was off to celebrate a major milestone in every teenager’s life. Later in the day, some friends needed help, so they met up with them to do what they could. It was at that time that Grace was put in the driver’s seat of a UTV. While driving, an accident occurred that resulted in the untimely and shocking death of Grace Schell. So the day that started out like any other, was ending in a nightmare.

In the wake of this indescribable tragedy, something beautiful happened. Just 3 days after her death, a movement began. “3 days after her passing, her cross country coach, Jared Schmidt, made a Facebook post about all the things that he recognized about our daughter, and at the end, asked everyone to hashtag ‘Be Like Grace’. So it was after those three days that something pretty incredible started to happen in our grief story,” recalls Grace’s mother, Holly Schell. 

The #BeLikeGrace movement, a movement that called for people to spread kindness, love, and generosity, was essentially created overnight, and it swept the globe. Yes, the globe. Through t-shirts and social posts the memory of Grace Schell was, and is, alive and well. “It went from us ordering 5,000 t-shirts for Grace’s memorial service to people on day five in Germany using her hashtag,” states Schell. 

Grace’s parents, Holly and Dustin Schell, have worked tirelessly to keep Grace’s kindness, generosity, and lovingness alive. They knew they had raised a good daughter, but what they didn’t realize was just how kind, generous, and loving their daughter had been during her time on earth.  “The movement kind of spread like wildfire those first couple of weeks, and as it was happening, we were getting messages from teenagers that Grace had been quietly helping. They began telling us their stories about our daughter,” Holly recalls through tears. “When it first happened, for Dustin and I, it was one of those bittersweet things. We would have much rather been able to hug Grace, and tell her ‘Man that’s awesome! We’re so glad you’ve been doing all these things!’ But that was not God’s plan for Grace. So now we are able to take the love that continues in our heart for our daughter and use the message she created while she was here, and we can give that message to other people.” 

Six months after Grace’s death, Holly and Dustin could see that their daughter’s story wasn’t over. They could see that her impact here on earth was much larger than they could have ever known, so they went back to the drawing board to decide how they could best spread the message that was inspired by Grace herself. “After the first six months, it became clear that this is going to be something. People were clearly resonating with this in ways other movements have not, and I can’t necessarily explain why that’s true, other than people needed it when it happened. Grace had already laid the foundation for it,” Holly says. “So we had to decide what we were going to do with all the love and generosity people had given to our family, and we quickly decided that we were going to start a foundation.” 

In its nearly three years of existence, the foundation has helped countless people in our community. “We now have the #BeLikeGrace Scholarship and Foundation, which spreads random acts of kindness, as well as gives away college scholarships, and helps local schools with events and Christmas gifts for kids. We make donations to other bereaved families for medical and funeral expenses, and we’ve even helped families who have lost everything in a fire. We’re all about spreading what we can to the community around us,” proudly states Holly. 

Starting the foundation was based on a seed that was planted by Grace just a day before her untimely passing. “Something Grace said to me the day before she passed away will always stick with me. She was running a race that day, and she had just come off of an injury the year prior, and we knew her numbers looked good, and that she was slated to do really well. She came off the line at the particular race and she looked at me, and of course, as a mom, I’m thinking What the heck! What’s the deal?! You didn’t hardly sprint at the end!, so I start questioning every part of that race for her because she didn’t end where I thought she needed to, and she looked right at me and she said ‘This wasn’t the race I was supposed to win,’ so we took that, without knowing what it meant at the time, but knowing that God had placed it on her heart, and used that as the foundation for the foundation. It’s kind of where it started,” remembers Schell. “She wasn’t supposed to win the race on earth, but she was supposed to win the one in heaven, and so for us, that was kind of the seed that was planted for our foundation. We had to figure out how we were going to take the race Grace had already started and continue the work, while glorifying God at the same time.”

The experience of starting the foundation has been both healing and bittersweet for the Schell family. “The process of starting the foundation, for us, has been both bittersweet and also incredibly healing for us. As much as we didn’t want to do it, it seemed like that was the path God was putting us on. Early on, right after Grace had passed and we had her memorial service, many, many people had donated to her fund, so our goal was then and always will be to give 100% of what we are given to other people,” states Holly. “Dustin and I knew that the only way we could do that in a structured way was to start a foundation. When we decided to do that, we sat down with a fantastic lawyer and we discussed everything. We talked about what our goals were for the foundation. We discussed where we wanted to be in 5 years and 10 years. We also discussed whether it was only going to be a scholarship we gave away once a year or if we were going to reach out and do something bigger in the communities around us and across the nation. So we had to sit down and look at what that was going to be.”

What helps aid in their grief, and also helps to confirm that the foundation is helping people the way they intended, is simply seeing and hearing from the people in the community. “I’ve heard stories of people using the hashtag to buy people lunch, or one gentleman even told me ‘When I see [the hashtag], I just want to smile.”, and that’s the purpose of the foundation. It’s to give you a smile and to give you the kindness that we so desperately need. The beginning of the foundation was Grace’s kindness, and I just hope we can continue that. What I love about our experience is that everything we get to do with the foundation feels like another chapter in her story,” states Holly. 

There is no doubt that Grace Schell left her mark on this world, and because of that, her parents have been able to see just how special their daughter was. And to them, that’s all the reward they need. “I think the rewarding part is hearing when people are impacted by our foundation. Whether they’re impacted through someone else’s generosity and they use the hashtag or their impacted directly from the foundation, it’s really special,” states Holly. “I also say our kids’ involvement in our foundation is incredibly rewarding. The entire thing has helped their healing process in such a big way. We allow them some decision making. You know, we could be in the line at McDonald’s and we’ll say ‘Do you want to pay for the people behind us?’ and I’ve never once heard them say no. Our kids will generously offer to give speeches when we give out Grace’s scholarship, so essentially they’re being their sister’s voice now, and that’s been so rewarding for us. Their loss is so much different than mine and Dustin’s. So for us to figure out a way to all walk this together, it’s really created a bond between us and heaven.” 

For Holly, what drives her to continue spreading Grace’s message everyday is simple: faith and kindness. “I want people to leave feeling better than they did before. That’s my goal. If I’m in a room with you, I want you to get something from me. I’m constantly thinking, What can I give you?” Holly says. “Life is so short, and our family has, unfortunately, had to live that, so we’ve seen how just simply being kind and living your faith can change people. And it doesn’t cost you anything to do it, so I guess what really motivates me is my faith in God and my faith in people.”

In 2022, the #BeLikeGrace Foundation hosted the inaugural #BeLikeGrace Foundation Fundraiser. The fundraiser included live music, games, food, drinks, and fellowship. In just its second year of existence, the fundraiser is bigger and better than the Schell’s could have ever imagined. “Grace loved country music. She would blare it with all the windows down, riding around in my husband’s truck and in her own car. She really loved music. It just made her happy, and those are really great memories for us. We really try to take the moment’s Grace would have enjoyed, and give them to other people, so going into this year, I had to think about how do we do this,” recalls Holly. “Dustin and I began planning, and he looked at me and said ‘Do you think we could get a Nashville recording artist?’ and I thought I don’t know if we’re that important, and I don’t know where to start! Turns out they make it really easy on you.”

The process of getting this year’s entertainer, platinum record selling artist Matt Stell, may have been easier than expected, but it also took a few nos along the way, before they found the person they knew would be a great representation for their foundation. “We got in touch with an agency, and we told them what our foundation was about, and they sent a couple artist’s names, but nothing felt quite right. A couple months in, they reached out and suggested Matt, so we began listening to his music, we talked to his manager, and everything really just fell into place. It was one of those things where you just knew he was the guy,” recalls Schell. “Matt will be there, Black Top South will open, we’ll have food and drinks, and it’ll just be a really great party.” In addition to the fundraising event, the #BeLikeGrace Foundation also puts on a 5K Run/Walk to help raise money for area schools and their running programs. The #BeLikeGrace Foundation Fundraiser is October 14 and tickets are on sale now at

What started out as an indescribable tragedy, has turned into something beyond the Schell family’s wildest dreams. At just 15, their daughter, Grace, touched the lives of so many people, and she continues to do that today through the actions of her mom, dad, siblings, friends, and strangers. At its core, the #BeLikeGrace Movement is all about kindness, so take today to be kinder, to be open to sharing the love that’s in your heart, and most importantly, to #BeLikeGrace.

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