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2017 Annual Report

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Profiles in Hope — Van

Profiles in Hope — Van Andel Institute Donors Turn Love & Loss into Action Blake Crabb Blake Crabb always looks for an opportunity to tell people about Purple Community and Van Andel Institute (VAI). As a past co-chair of the Purple Community Cabinet and a current member of the Institute’s JBoard Ambassadors, Crabb has given presentations, met with community members and worked hard to help organize successful fundraising events. For Crabb, the work is all deeply personal. “I discovered Purple Community within a month of my mom being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Crabb said. “One of the first things I asked the Purple Community team was if VAI researches pancreatic cancer, and they said, ‘We absolutely do, and by the way, would you like to meet one of our scientists?’” Crabb’s mother fought the disease aggressively, but after two years of treatment, the cancer spread to her liver and even further, to her lymph nodes. Blake and his mom decided to take her off treatment to preserve her quality of life. He stayed by her side until the very end. “It was about 7:15 in the morning when she passed,” Crabb said. “I walked in to her room just after she took her last breath.” When Crabb’s mother passed away, it completely changed his perspective on what was important in life. He began searching for ways to cultivate hope. 28 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2017 “After you are somebody’s main caregiver, you end up with an amazing amount of time, which makes you shift your sense of purpose,” Crabb said. “It made me look for ways to be hopeful, and I’ve come to understand that if you’re looking for hope, you definitely have to take action. You have to be able to look at a challenge and ask yourself, ‘What can I do?’” Over the past several years, Crabb has worked with Purple Community team members and volunteers, organizing and inspiring others and leveraging his skills to support research into pancreatic cancer. “Volunteering your time is not about some massive undertaking — it’s really as simple as getting involved on the ground level and figuring out what motivates you,” Crabb said. “When you spread positive energy around and bring people together, it’s more likely you are going to end up with something that results not just in hope but maybe one day, a cure.” Watch Blake's story at bit.ly/BlakeCrabb. Pat Ringnalda There’s an unmistakable joyful energy at the Bee Brave 5K — an event Pat Ringnalda and her friends and family have organized for more than a decade. Ringnalda is a passionate advocate for breast cancer research, and her contagious positivity makes the Bee Brave 5K not only a successful fundraiser but also a way for people to come together in the spirit of hope. Since partnering with Van Andel Institute’s Purple Community in 2016, the event has raised nearly 0,000 to benefit breast cancer research at the Institute. Ringnalda is encouraged by the outpouring of support she’s received for Bee Brave and its mission of hope. “When I think back to when I first started the event and was recruiting volunteers, friends and family members to help, I thought it would be temporary, but 10 years later, we are still here, working together to make this such a wonderful event,” Ringnalda said. Hosting an event for 10 years takes a great deal of effort, but when the demands weigh on her, Ringnalda often reflects on the people she’s had the opportunity to meet who are in the toughest fight of their lives. “One of my first event sponsors was a women’s exercise business in West Michigan,” Ringnalda said. ”When I would visit, I would see this woman named Lupita on the treadmill, and I could see she was battling cancer and trying to get healthy. She came to our first event with her whole family — and then in less than a year, she passed away. Stories like that remind me that our efforts are important, and we need to keep making a difference for everyone fighting cancer.” Bee Brave’s partnership with Purple Community has helped Ringnalda grow her event and connect her to a network of like-minded supporters. It is a partnership that has helped build on her vision and grow her popular event into something extraordinary. “If you’re thinking about doing an event, my answer is … stop thinking and do it now,” Ringnalda said. “Working with Purple Community connects your passion to an incredible group of people who are there to support you and help

you give back for a cause you care deeply about.” Watch Pat's story at bit.ly/PatRingnalda. Chelsea Westra Chelsea Westra never thought she would be organizing golf outings or leading a team of volunteers, but for more than a year, she has helped run Eagles for Eric, a West Michigan– based fundraising committee. Together with Purple Community, Westra has helped raised thousands of dollars to benefit osteosarcoma research. Named after her late husband, Eric, the committee is a tribute to the life they shared together and to Westra’s need to help others who have been affected by cancer. Westra’s first child, Arie, had just been born when Eric underwent surgery due to recurrent osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. The couple was devastated by the unexpected news, but they fought through it and sought out the best treatment possible. Four months later, a full-body bone scan confirmed that tumors had spread throughout his body. “Eric needed everything I had to help him,” Westra said. “Our parents and siblings really stepped up. My son, Arie, was essentially raised by my sister-in-law during the last few months Eric was sick — we missed the first time he crawled, and we missed a lot of those little milestones.” Eric passed away from the disease in 2016, and it was the most difficult thing Westra could ever imagine. Being Eric’s caregiver for those three years gave her a newfound understanding of the importance of research in developing new treatments for devastating diseases like osteosarcoma. During Eric’s first surgery, he donated a portion of his tumor to Dr. Matthew Steensma’s lab at the Institute to be used for osteosarcoma research. Westra views this act of generosity as a fitting way to honor the life of the man she loved so dearly. “A great heartache, like I had with Eric, really gives you a heart for great causes. And Van Andel Institute is what’s in my heart because it keeps Eric’s memory alive. It still feels like we can do something good with it, and hopefully, one day, because of what they’re able to do with Eric’s tumor, it won’t be a terminal diagnosis; it will be a beatable diagnosis,” Westra said. Through Westra’s work with Purple Community, she plans to play an active role in the Institute’s work to develop lifesaving therapies for people battling cancer. “Hope looks different to everyone,“ Westra said. “For me, hope looks like working hard so that my son, Arie, can see that maybe his dad isn’t here, but look at this amazing thing that happened because of his life.” Watch Chelsea's story at bit.ly/ChelseaWestra. David Bronkema David Bronkema’s faith and family mean the world to him. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the young age of 42, his thoughts instantly went to God and his children. “The thing that flooded my mind when I was driving home after being diagnosed was that my kids need to understand that God is good, not just when things are going well … I want them to know he is good all the time,” Bronkema said. PHILANTHROPY Bronkema’s strong Christian faith and need to do good in the world led him to become a dedicated supporter of Van Andel Institute’s Parkinson’s disease research, and he is optimistic that with donor support, the Institute’s scientists can help those diagnosed with this degenerative disease. “I’ll be honest and say I hope that there is a cure in my lifetime, so I try and live every day to the fullest, and never give up hope,” Bronkema said. “Just understanding all the great research taking place at the Institute should give anyone a real sense of hope that we are that much closer to a cure.” Bronkema is an ardent believer in the Institute’s ability to effect change and bring about new therapies for Parkinson’s, and he hopes more people will join him and support its mission. “If you want to change the way things are tomorrow, you have to get involved in what the Institute is doing today,” Bronkema said. “Whether it’s volunteering or donating through Purple Community, or giving a donation to benefit the Institute’s scientists, everyone can find a way to support the work happening here.” Facing the hardest battle of his life, Bronkema is encouraged by the Institute’s work and supported by the love of his family and his faith in God. “I have so much hope for what Van Andel Institute is doing, and because of that, I will never lose heart,” he said. Watch David's story at bit.ly/ DavidBronkema. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2017 | 29

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