Theresa Rheker and her husband tried to smile through the tears streaming down their faces. They watched their 14-year old son Dylan receive a standing ovation as he walked across the stage to accept an award nobody saw coming.
This was one of “those” moments. A moment Theresa says she would bottle up and play over and over if she could. This was a moment that personifies why Dylan is his parents’ hero.
On March 28 at the L’Anse Creuse Middle School — East National Honor Society Awards Night, Dylan, along with his family and peers, learned that he had completed more community service hours than any other student in the school, surpassing the students behind him by 100 hours. By completing 236 hours over the course of two years, he not only set the record for the 2017-2018 school year but he broke the record for hours completed by any male student in the school’s history. His accomplishments gained him local notoriety from several local media outlets and earned him the title of 2018 Macomb County Volunteer of the Year.
While this level of giving to the community is admirable all on its own, there is much more to Dylan’s story. He was diagnosed at birth with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue both inside and outside of the body. In 2007, at three years old, he was diagnosed with stage two brain cancer. Dylan is legally blind in one eye, combats several physical constraints and will take daily chemotherapy medications indefinitely. Somehow, all of these obstacles have not stopped him from earning straight A’s and helping others.
His mom has a theory behind his drive to serve. “Because of what he’s going through, I believe it makes him feel better to help,” Theresa explained. “Even when he is at St. Jude he will clean up or push children around and play with them. I think that’s just his nature to help. He’d rather help others than himself.”
Dylan has his own take on things as well. As he explained very matter-of-factly, “It makes me feel happy. I just love to help out and volunteer. I just forget about everything and have some fun!”
The Volunteer of the Year completed many of his hours at the Village of East Harbor, a senior living community in Chesterfield. After talking to some of the residents, it’s clear that it isn’t just Dylan having fun. Playing games and spending quality time with the residents, Dylan has made several lasting connections.
“When I see him I’m like a magnet,” said resident Linda Sharpe. “Dylan is full of energy. His youth makes him appealing to the residents because he is just more excited about things.”
Her sentiment was echoed by many, including Salvatore Carrato, who has invited Dylan to come back and work on a favorite hobby: building model action figures and vehicles.
Dylan has certainly made an impression on many over the years and he will continue to do so with his big plans for the future. For the next four years, he has all intentions of maintaining his straight-A status, and he’s decided the sky’s the limit on community service hours as he already has several completed. After high school, he plans to further his education and hopes to become either a police office or emergency medical technician. Regardless of which path he chooses, there is one thing that’s for sure, he is set to become a hero on an even larger scale.
L’Anse Creuse Middle School - East is located in Chesterfield Township.