BY JON LUJAN
|Alana Nichols with Jason and his sister Caitlyn
| Jason and Caitlyn at the Olympic Training Center
| Jason and me lifting some weights
|Keith Gabel, Alana Nichols, Jason and me
I have been trying to decide just what to write this month and over the weekend it became oh so clear. The last few weeks have been very busy for me. I relocated to my summer home of Colorado Springs and began workouts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The Warrior Games came to town and we also had a team camp that took place in conjunction with that. I was able to take plenty of time to support the athletes of the Warrior Games and still manage to attend all of the planned events for the team camp. After the Warrior Games ended, one of my teammates, Alana Nichols, asked me and one of the national team snowboard athletes Keith Gabel if we would help her present a pair of shoes to a young boy named Jason Dunnock on behalf of an organization called Peach’s Neet Feet (PNF). The organization was founded by a young philanthropist named Madison Steiner. We are looking forward to maintaining a strong relationship with her and PNF in the future.
Jason was diagnosed at birth with a rare blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure and recently had a bone marrow transplant. To see Jason one would never think he was still immunosuppressed – the energy was that of any other child his age. He also is very fortunate to have such an amazing family. His big sister, Caitlyn, is a little rock star, never showing any kind of jealousy that her brother seems to be the one getting all the attention. His mom, Kelly, and dad, David, are truly amazing Americans; in fact, when Jason was only 8 months old his mom deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force for a year. Being able to spend time with them and give them a private tour of the OTC was something that will forever rank up there with winning a couple of national championships.
The next day was once again emotional; I attended a benefit for a childhood friend that I met when we were kids. His name is Tim Archuleta and was diagnosed earlier this year with Adenocarcinoma of the lung as well as tumors on his spine and hip. He began going through treatment with radiation and now takes a chemotherapy pill daily. He also has an amazing family – wife, Kelly; daughter, Dakota; son, Colton. There had to be at least 400-500 different people who wandered in throughout the day. He and I were chatting at one point and there was a young girl that he met when he started treatment that was there too. Tim decided that since her single mother was having a hard time making ends’ meet that he was going to give them a portion of the proceeds from that day’s benefit. What a guy; I mean here he is struggling himself and he’s willing to help someone else out. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention his mother, Tobi, and sister, Susan, who make meals and bring them over to contribute. Keep up the fight, Timmy, and as your slogan says “One Day at a Time.”
Cancer has reared its ugly head in my family as well; my mom’s sister, Judy, is also battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. The support that she has received from all of her siblings, children and extended family is amazing. It truly is difficult knowing that someone who has been in your life for so long is dying, but she is a fighter and will battle as long as she can. Just hope you know that I love you!
Which brings me to my whole point to this blog; too often as professional athletes we have blinders on and forget that little things that we can do as an ambassador have the ability to influence people’s lives. To be an ambassador is one of those rewarding things that blows out of the water any award or medal I could ever earn. After that emotional weekend I decided that giving back to the community is something I am going to make more of priority to do. With less than 300 days to go until Russia, this is something I think is going to help get me re-centered. Thanks again for supporting myself and the rest of us that are on the #RoadtoSochi. Go Team USA!!!
|Putting on Jason’s shoes!||Me and my buddy Tim Archuleta|