And since then, his family and friends have worked to memorialize his life, which they say was full of selflessness and charity.
On Friday night, 400 people attended a fundraiser in Niles, said Lindsey Kilsdonk, Schaefer's sister.
"It was a party that Mike would have been proud of," she said. "It was still hard, but Mike would have been proud."
Tickets were sold and a silent auction was held.
Kilsdonk said her cousin's husband, former Chicago Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall, attended the event and donated signed memorabilia from him and other professional players.
A Dwyane Wade Miami Heat jersey went for $800. Jerseys from Josh Hamilton, of the Los Angeles Angels, and Joey Votto, of the Cincinnati Reds, went for $300 a piece.
Family members and Kilsdonk, 31, are working to establish a nonprofit organization, called "Michael's Mission," to administer the scholarships and hold an annual fundraisers.
Kilsdonk said they had wanted to raise $16,000 at the fundraiser, but ended up receiving $26,000, nearly enough to pay for two students' tuition at the academy.
Schaefer and his siblings attended the Jesuit high school in Wilmette. Schaefer said the education he received there "changed his life," according to Kilsdonk.
At one time, she said, he considered becoming a priest. In recent years he worked as a police officer for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and spent his summers as a lifeguard at Loyola Beach.
"We’re still sad about Michael passing," she said, "but it was good to see some of those tears turn to laughter, and just to know that there will be something good to come out of something that was so tragic for all of us."