September 27th, 2023
His smile—big, his hair—wacky and blonde, his demeanor despite a very rare genetic disorder—joyful. While five years of age when he passed away, Connor Jenson’s life was measured by how he lived and those he touched around him.
Mom and Dad, Abby & Zac, were Connor’s rocks and medical advocates. His sister, Madison (4), was the epitome of a proud little sister. When family and friends visited their house, Madison always took them to see Connor who was usually listening to music in his room or outside—two of his most favorite places.
Outside of his immediate family, Connor had the best grandparents and a plethora of aunts and uncles. Born with cataracts in each eye, the family didn’t know how much Connor could see. Despite this, they knew he was always listening. He recognized voices so easily and engaged with others through smiles and laughs.
When Connor was 9 months old, he was sent to American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) in Madison after receiving care at other medical facilities since his birth. At the time, Abby, Zac and Connor’s grandparents, Barb and Sam Story, stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for six weeks, taking turns being by Connor’s side at the hospital. The family returned for subsequent visits to Madison for appointments and procedures.
In March of 2023, Abby & Zac took Connor to AFCH because they thought he was fighting a cold that he needed some help getting over. Unfortunately, they learned that Connor’s rare genetic disorder was taking over his body. During this difficult time, the House brought Abby and Zac peace. Abby shared, “When you’re dealing with heavy things, we needed the space at the House where we could go back and have a room to ourselves with no interruptions and to regain our strength.”
The Jenson Family recently returned to the House to honor Connor with a tile on the Heart Wall in Hope Park. It reads: “The little boy who inspired many and loved by all.” Also displayed on the tile, Bucky Badger. The family made this selection because the UW Badgers often frequented AFCH when Connor was there. Abby shared, “Days get long at the hospital and their visits provided levity. I was always in awe that they did that for families.”
Learning of Connor’s passing, UW Athletics wanted to do more. On September 16, the family received that levity from the Badgers again. After installing Connor’s Heart Wall tile in Hope Park, they enjoyed a Badgers win on a picture-perfect fall day complete with apparel and concession vouchers to make this difficult trip back to Madison a memorable one.
Also in the running for Connor’s Heart Tile was a lion—a nod to a song that always calmed him in times of pain and unknown, but also a symbol of courage and strength. Two characteristics that embodied how he lived his life and in doing so, inspired all.