By Angela Kraft
A somber yet hopeful email was sent to the Belton School District staff on Friday, Aug. 16.
“We received some heartbreaking news yesterday. Troy Shaw, the network security manager and safety coordinator for the district, has been placed in hospice care. Troy has been undergoing cancer treatments since his initial melanoma diagnosis a little over 2 years ago. Even if you have not had the pleasure of meeting or working with Troy, you will -- because Troy is woven into the fabric of the Belton School District…”
District personnel planned and carried out a tribute to Shaw by wearing the Melanoma Awareness color of black on Tuesday. This among an outgoing of online and offline support was the district’s way of giving back.
Shaw was born with a loving heart of service. This was evident to many at the end of his sophomore year at Belton High School when he had a casual conversation with a friend from marching band. This friend, Richard Words, told him how his mother shocked him with the news that his family would be moving in two weeks to Omaha.
Words was very concerned that this would take him away from the life he had built for himself in Belton, including being a successful state qualifier in track and field. Shaw returned to school the next day with an invite to join his family through the rest of his high school years. Unbeknownst at the time, Words’ mother had been fired from work due to drugs and was running away from problems stemming from her addiction.
Words credits his life accomplishments, including getting a full ride scholarship to Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri Science and Technology), having a successful career and business, and his role as a husband and father to the kindness of Shaw stepping in and offering him a family.
“I don’t know where my life would have been if he didn’t say something. I owe him the fact that I’m married today, that I have kids, that I wanted kids, and pursued anything outside of high school,” Words said. “We don’t look alike. I’m black. He’s white. But you couldn’t tell us that because that he was my brother.”
Twenty-three years ago, Shaw went from being a Belton High School Graduate directly into being a Belton School District employee. He, along with others, started the technology department which grew from two techs to 14 in that time.
He quickly found his passion in helping within the security realm of the technology field and then moved on to physical security of the buildings with door-lock systems. Shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre, an assistant superintendent asked him to go to training to be able to train teachers how to react in an active shooter situation. He jumped at the chance to help protect Belton’s children. What he learned at the training terrified him, he said, and he wanted to be better equipped to protect the schools.
Shaw took that opportunity to attend the Police Academy to attain the ability to legally carry a firearm with him inside the schools. He never intended to actually become a police officer; he just wanted the training to help protect students.
However, he was approached by a Belton Police officer and recruited to become a commissioned reserve officer, which meant he could work on a part-time basis, on call, with the police department while continuing his full-time employment with the district.
Shaw volunteered to serve as bailiff and do prisoner transports so that those jobs wouldn’t take an officer off the streets, maintaining his focus on helping to ensure the safety of the community he grew up in.
According to Belton Police Chief Jim Person, “Troy is a very special person. His commitment to our community has been tireless. He is the most unassuming, quiet soul that I know. He never wants to take credit for anything he has done, but without his behind-the-scenes involvement, many projects and programs would not have been as successful… Thoughts, prayers, cards and visits that our folks have sent, all seem inadequate. We offer support to Troy and his family as he has certainly been a blessing to all who he has touched.”
In May of 2017, Troy was doing an active shooter training with the police department and was shot in the back with an airsoft pellet. He noticed a discolored spot in that location a few days later. Shaw thought it was a blood blister.
When it was still there after a month, he went to the dermatologist. Biopsy results came back as positive for melanoma. At that time, he had surgery to remove the cancer from his back and his lymph nodes. He went on to do chemo treatments and an immunotherapy treatment.
In March of this year, his doctors told him he was all clean and there was no sign of cancer.
However, in April a bump appeared on his tongue and arm. The biopsy showed it was again melanoma. Scans showed he now also had it in his liver, kidney, lungs and spine. The MRI showed he had 14 tumors in his brain as well.
After a round of radiation treatment Shaw felt up to spending a fun vacation with his buddies in Memphis. Upon returning though he became very ill. In early August, he felt like he couldn’t move, and more scans found he had a fractured vertebra due to the tumors. He met with his radiation oncologist and learned the most recent MRI showed at least another 20 tumors on his brain. The news was broken to him at that time that it was terminal.
Even with this struggle, Shaw’s focus remains on making a difference. He didn’t want an article about himself. He said Tuesday that he wanted an article that helps people become more aware of melanoma so it can prevent others from going through what he has.
Shaw is the executive director of the Belton Cares group. The other members and interim director have agreed to help his legacy live on throughout Belton by providing education and grants to help prevent melanoma.
In the Belton Cares newsletter, it states, “Melanoma claims the lives of more than 7,000 Americans every year.”
This scary statistic is followed up with prevention and tips on how to catch melanoma early.
This newsletter is posted on the Belton Cares Facebook page and has limited print copies at the library.
Belton Cares is a non-profit group that works for the betterment of our community and is a program that is very dear to Shaw.
Belton Cares’ interim director, Sandy Clutter, said that Shaw’s mother wanted to join Belton Cares now and wants to help carry on Shaw’s work.
“That’s exactly what we are going to do. We are going to carry on Troy’s work,” she said.
For more information on joining Belton Cares and becoming involved, follow the organization’s Facebook page or attend its meetings the third Thursday of the month at 3:30 p.m. at the Belton Police Department Community Room.
Shaw never had biological children of his own, but “Troy saw every kid in those schools as his kids,” Clutter said.
Last Friday’s email from the Belton School District concluded with:
“When we talk about Belton’s Portrait of a Graduate, think of Troy. He is all the things we hope for a Belton graduate: driven, gracious, curious, organized, collaborative, and kind. He believes in us, he believes in our students, and he believes in Belton.”
Shaw has made a difference in the lives of many throughout his lifetime. He changed the life of his friend in high school. He secured the Belton School District’s technology to keep kids safe. He taught teachers and administrators how to react if a shooter were to get past the locks and barrier he helped put in place.
He will also help many learn about melanoma and help them protect themselves and future generations with his legacy. He will live on through the stories of the lives he has touched.
If he has impacted your life, please share your story with Troy and his family through the North Cass Herald Facebook Page or in the comments section of this article.