If you were at Dew Tour watching 18-year-old Olympic snowboarder Arielle Gold meet Bryan Warnecke for the first time, you would think they were long-time friends. It’s easy to see why: They are both teenagers with Olympic aspirations, a love for shredding and the desire to make the most out of life. But what you wouldn’t know just by watching them is that 15-year-old Warnecke was born with an incurable disease, one with a life expectancy around 40 years.
Warnecke was born with the genetic lung disorder called cystic fibrosis. His story, and his daily struggle with the disease, is the subject of the Colorado band OneRepublic’s new music video for their single, “I Lived.” The video — which has more than 7 million hits on YouTube — is how the halfpipe snowboarder came to meet the black diamond skier from Castle Rock, Colorado, who hopes to one day be the starting goalie for the U.S. men’s ice hockey team.
Arielle and Taylor Gold’s dad, Ken, recalled getting sent a link for the music video from a friend in Boulder.
“My kids are always looking for a way to give back, for all of the incredible blessings in their lives,” said the father of two Olympians. “When they saw the video of Bryan, it resonated with them. Because he’s a kid who is overcoming some real challenges and aspires to make an Olympic team. He is an inspiration every day. When they saw that, they said, ‘We want to meet him. We’re inspired by him and we’d love for him to come up to the Dew Tour and share that with us.’”
Arielle remembered, “My brother and I were trying to figure out ways we could have Bryan come out and promote his fundraising efforts. So we decided to have him come out for Dew, and hopefully it will get him some publicity and raise more money for cystic fibrosis research.”
Warnecke is no stranger to fundraising. Earlier this summer, the avid biker raised $300,000 — the most money ever raised by one person in the history of the fundraiser — when he and his dad completed a 1,065-mile bike ride through 46 cities in Colorado and Wyoming over a period of 43 days. They did this as part of Courage Classic, an annual bike ride that benefits Children’s Hospital Colorado, a hospital Warnecke knows all too well.
“When I was born, I wasn’t eating anything. After about three weeks of that, they put a feeding tube in me and it was then that they diagnosed me with cystic fibrosis,” Warnecke said. “I think I made 19 trips to the emergency room, and spent like 15 nights in the hospital my first year of life.”
For the next 14 years he said, “things were great,” despite having to receive respiratory treatments twice a day where he hooks up to a machine that pounds on his chest for 20-40 minutes.
But, he said, “this past year has been kind of rough. I’ve been hospitalized twice for about a week each time. I’m just trying to live life and have fun.”
And since Arielle gets paid to have fun, she decided she would put some of the winnings from her third-place finish at Dew towards cystic fibrosis research, hopefully ensuring that Warnecke gets to live that life a lot longer.