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2017 Fall Highlights of Hope

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  • Andel
  • Institute
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  • Michigan
  • Schweigert
  • Colvin
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  • Vai.org

PURPLE COMMUNITY HOCKEY

PURPLE COMMUNITY HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER Jenn Schweigert, mother of three hockey-obsessed sons, isn’t afraid to take on big challenges. In 2016, Schweigert organized the second annual Hockey Fights Cancer event at Southside Ice Arena in Byron Center, Michigan. The weekend-long event, featuring 24 youth hockey teams, raised more than ,000 to benefit cancer research at Van Andel Institute (VAI). It was an event that not only raised significant funds but united the West Michigan hockey community in the fight against cancer. Understanding the importance of research Schweigert’s father was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was still in college, and the news completely upended her life. “When I got the news that my dad had brain cancer, I thought I would have to leave school to be there for my family,” Schweigert said. “I felt so helpless in that moment, because in reality there was very little I could do to help.” Thanks to advances in brain surgery and a new technique called brain mapping, Schweigert’s father had an invasive but ultimately successful operation to remove a cancerous tumor on his brain. The experience gave Schweigert a deeper understanding of the importance of biomedical research and the need to support advancements in cancer therapy. “I love that we have created an event that empowers young people and shows them that they can use what they love and what they are good at to give back.” - Jenn Schweigert “There is no doubt that this incredible discovery and this new technology allowed my dad to live, and because of this surgery he was there for my wedding and when my sons were born,” Schweigert said. “After that, I just felt very strongly about supporting cancer research.” Giving back—loving hockey It wasn’t long before Schweigert connected her family’s love of hockey to her desire to give back and support the very research that saved her dad’s life. She also wanted her sons to understand that they could use their passion for hockey to make a difference in people’s lives. “I love that we have created an event that empowers young people and shows them that they can use what they love and what they are good at to give back,” Schweigert said. “I wanted my sons to know that even though we’re not scientists and can’t fight cancer on our own, we can throw a DREW AGNEW WITH HIS TEACHER MICHELLE DECKER. really good party and get people to come together to make a difference.” The party Schweigert organized with help from Purple Community, the Mike Knubel Family Foundation and the Fox Motors Youth Hockey Association has raised tens of thousands of dollars for research at VAI and has served to connect a community of families affected by cancer to a powerful and poignant movement. During the Hockey Fights Cancer weekend, players donned custom jerseys with the name of a friend or family member who has been affected by cancer stitched on the back. The gesture honored the lives of those who had lost their fight to cancer and paid tribute to those who continue to fight on. (STARTING IN THE BACK, LEFT TO RIGHT) TRAVIS RICHARDS, MIKE KNUBLE, TODD SCHWEIGERT, SHERRY BOWEN, MIKE SLOBODNIK, DAVID LEFERE, DAVID VAN ANDEL; CAROL VAN ANDEL, ANGIE RICHARDS, MEGAN KNUBLE, JENN SCHWEIGERT, DAN BOWEN, MEREDITH SLOBODNIK AND CAREY LEFERE. “I recently received an email from a hockey player who skated in honor of a woman with cancer who dropped the puck at last year’s event,” Schweigert said. “The email said that the woman had passed away but that the event meant so much to her family, and it gave them such a special memory of their time together. These are the kinds of stories that encourage me to keep going.” 6 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

NO BARRIERS TO PURPLE POWER Diane Colvin finds it hard to hold back the tears during the days that lead up to Purple Power—a series of events that benefit cancer research at Van Andel Institute. Colvin helps organize the series of student-focused sport events with the West Ottawa, Michigan, school district, where she has been a special education teacher for more than 18 years. Purple Power is a significant undertaking for everyone in the school district, and for Colvin, her participation is personal. “When my mom had cancer, I knew I couldn’t do much about it, and I felt powerless because I couldn’t take it away from her,” Colvin said. “But I knew two things I could do—pray and raise money to support cancer research.” Colvin’s desire to support cancer research is shared by everyone on the Purple Power committee, and for more than five years they have hosted events that connect the enthusiasm for student sports to powerful community action. Purple Power continues to gain momentum with each passing year, and last year alone the event raised more than ,000 to support cancer research. “I wish cancer didn’t touch so many people, but it’s really great to see all the support we have to make these events happen,” Colvin said. “Everyone on the committee works full time, and we are busy people, but this is something that we are all consumed by, and we know it’s worth it.” An open, inclusive community Colvin has heard many cancer stories while organizing Purple Power, and with each story comes the understanding that cancer touches everyone. LEEANNE ARCHER AND A WEST OTTAWA ATHLETE. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, cancer can come into your life,” Colvin said. “This past year I wore a jersey with the number 12 on it, because 12 people in my family have been affected by cancer.” Purple Power began with basketball games and has since grown to include hockey, soccer, swim and dive, wrestling and cheerleading. Students and families who attend the events wear purple clothing and custom jerseys in support of people who have been affected by cancer, and the events foster a feeling of shared support that reaches far outside the confines of West Michigan. “Cancer isn’t just focused on one community, so for our events there are no barriers,” Colvin said. ”Purple Power is an open, inclusive way for people who have been affected by cancer to take action, support cancer research and make a difference.” (STARTING IN THE BACK, LEFT TO RIGHT) MARY RINGQUIST AND LEEANNE ARCHER; SANDI BROWN, DIANE COLVIN AND SCOTT WOLTERINK. PHOTOS COURTESY OF LAURA VELDHOF. Thank you to Diane Colvin and the Purple Power Committee, LeeAnne Archer, Sandi Brown, Mary Ringquist and Scott Wolterink for your generosity and hard work. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 7

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