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Amazing young man displays courage and strength of character


Bryan Warnecke’s team name is Pink Lightning, a tribute to the nickname his goalie coach gave him referring to his lightning speed and pink goalie pads. In 2013 Bryan and his dad Steve completed the two-day Courage Classic, and this year Bryan has set his sights on a much bigger goal.


By Amy Shanahan with special contribution from Steve Warnecke;
photos courtesy of Wendy Warnecke

Castle Pines Village resident Bryan Warnecke is a fifteen-year-old student at Rock Canyon High School. He is the star goalie of his Arapahoe Warriors midget minor hockey team, is a double black diamond skier and snowboarder, and is an avid biker. He enjoys spending time with his friends, his parents Wendy and Steve and older brother Jake. However, what most people don’t see and know about Bryan is that he also has cystic fibrosis (CF), an incurable disease that affects his lungs and digestive system. Bryan was diagnosed when he was only three weeks old. His life has revolved around numerous stays and trips to Children’s Hospital and he currently takes fifty pills per day and spends one hour in daily respiratory therapy.

In 2013, Bryan rode in and was a top fundraiser for the Courage Classic, a two-day bike ride in the mountains of Colorado that benefits Children’s Hospital. This year, the Courage Classic is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and Bryan will be riding more than 1,000 miles in Colorado and Wyoming over forty-three days, and ending at the Courage Classic in order to raise awareness of CF and to raise funds for Children’s Hospital and their fight to find a cure for this awful disease. “This is my way of thanking Children’s Hospital for keeping me healthy and to encourage other kids with disabilities to remain physically active and pursue their dreams,” stated Bryan. 

Following is an excerpt from a recent letter about Bryan written by his father Steve. This letter beautifully sums up who Bryan is and the amazing level of his determination and spirit.

“Until this last year, Bryan had remained pretty healthy.  I give credit for that to Children’s Hospital and his love of hockey.  Unfortunately, we have begun to see the deterioration, particularly in the last six months.  Until his hospital stay last week, Bryan had been sick off and on for the previous five weeks, missed four weeks of school, is woefully behind with some understanding teachers and some not, and has been to Children’s CF clinic too many times of late.  Last Wednesday, he came home after spending seven nights in the hospital.  

My wife and I are scared.  Not the kind of scared that we are going to lose him any time soon.  It is the realization that this disease is very real, relentlessly progressing and the urgency of doing something is increasing with every day.  It is also the realization that the dreams that we have [for Bryan]may be diminishing, made even more poignant by his own thoughts.  Before going in to the hospital, Bryan told Wendy that he did not think that his dream of playing hockey in the Olympics and being the first person with CF to play in the Olympics was very realistic.  My heart broke in a thousand pieces.  Short of someone dying, there is nothing that anyone could have said to me that could have hurt more.  

We all have stories of courage in our lives and I have lived with his shining example of courage and grace for fifteen years.  I can never hope to achieve the level of courage and grace that he exhibits every day no matter how long I live.  I am only blessed to be around it.  Two weeks ago, there was another example of his spirit that I want to share with you.  With the Olympics a recent memory, we often see the incredible stories of athletes displaying courage to overcome obstacles in the way of their dreams.  

Bryan’s hockey team lost only one league game this year, won three tournaments and went to the North American championships in Toronto.   Two weeks ago, they played in the playoffs and the state championship.  In Bryan’s first two games as the goalie, he got two shutouts stopping all 37 shots on goal.  In the final game on Sunday, our other goalie started and we were down 3-2 two minutes into the second period.  Bryan came in, gave up one goal the rest of the game, and the team won 5-4.  He was the hero but no one, other than Wendy and I, knew how much he overcame to still perform at that level.  That evening his body gave out and a couple of days later we were checking him into Children’s.  

This is the meaning behind the incredible picture of Bryan on my desk with “Courage Is…” written on it.  He is my definition of courage.  

You might say, and believe me we asked ourselves this, why did we let him play and run the risk of running down his body.  Dreams and passion are the will-power that carry people through sickness.  His passion is hockey, his spirit is unbreakable, and his dreams have to remain within reach.  On Sunday, he was on top of the world at the pinnacle of his young life – the hero of his teenage hockey team winning a state championship.   Days later, he faced the reality of a foe that he did not choose to take on. He is an incredible human being filled with drive, passion, compassion, and dreams.”

If you would like to donate to Bryan’s fundraising efforts, or if you are interested in riding with him during any segment of his ride, visit www.pinklightning.org.

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