Meet Dan VanSkiver, the Dream Team’s founder.
“Your son has cancer”…those were the words we heard on February 8, 2007. It was real. Not a commercial on TV or an advertisement on the radio spewing statistics about childhood cancer. This was our child that has cancer. The time that followed was so much of a blur it is hard to remember and the parts I do remember, I don’t want to.
Making an extremely long story, much shorter – At that point, one really has two choices: become angry, resentful and victimized…OR use your experience for good. James 1: 2-4 talks about suffering and growing from it. That is what we chose.
Our son Trevor, who was 2 years old at the time his fight against cancer started, endured the physical suffering (multiple surgeries, numerous spinal taps, and bone marrow aspirates, daily chemotherapy for over 1,000 consecutive days, losing the ability to speak and walk, the list goes on). Watching your son go through that, gives a parent extreme emotional suffering. We needed an outlet, a way to “help” in some way. I started running (which I was not doing at any level prior) as a way to help clear my mind and spend time praying. Occasional runs turned into my wife Susie and I signing up for the Philadelphia Triathlon to raise funds for cancer research. We found it…our way to help. Raising awareness and helping fund the fight! Since our first race in 2009, Susie and I have participated in many more raising thousands of dollars for the fight against cancer.
One giant break we received from Trevor’s grueling 3+ yearlong battle and treatment, was a family trip to Disney World. This was no ordinary trip to Disney, this was a trip through Make-A-Wish. It was the exact escape we needed to take a rest from doctor visits, chemotherapy, physical therapy, etc. Much needed family time…fun…love…hope. The trip included a limousine ride to the airport, a stay at the appropriately named “Give Kids the World Village”, tickets to all the parks, special meet and greet with numerous Disney characters and we even got to celebrate Christmas in May! It was perfect timing for us, as it helped the whole family, especially Trevor, reset mentally and prepare for the rest of treatment. Make-A-Wish really provided a springboard for him to beat cancer and live a long, healthy life!
Ever since that Make-A-Wish experience, it has been a desire of ours to give back to this amazing organization. In 2016 I had a vision, perhaps epiphany, that I should run my next race for Make-A-Wish. I had witnessed how much money can be raised for such great causes through triathlons, that it made sense to start giving back to Make-A-Wish through the next race. The bad news was…Make-A-Wish didn’t have a team or participate in any triathlons.
So, since I couldn’t join a team for Make-A-Wish, I decided to start one! Trevor named it “THE DREAM TEAM” because we want to help kid’s dreams come true! Our inaugural race was the Grand Rapids Triathlon in 2017 with 22 team members, we again raced in 2018 with 35 team members and will be out there again on June 9, 2019! Our team has grown each year in the number of participants and amount of funds raised! Our plan is to be HUGE this year!
Make-A-Wish®Michigan granted more than 450 wishes last year to Michigan children with critical illnesses. We believe that a wish experience can be a game-changer. This one belief guides us in everything we do. It inspires us to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids in our Michigan communities.
For more information about the Grand Rapids Triathlon please contact us here.