In this file photo from 2014, Dustan Colyer (right) is pictured with his DC Strong co-founders (from bottom to top) Zach Verhage, Larry Gonzalez and Nate Smith.

DC Strong founder loses battle with cancer

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom

(UPDATED) The community of Plainwell and young cancer patients across the country are mourning the loss Dustan Colyer, the founder of DC Strong. Colyer died from a rare kidney cancer he had been battling since the age of 6.

The 23-year-old passed away Wednesday, Oct. 11. The news was posted by his mother Karelyn DeBoer Meert.

“Tonight we lost a gift that can’t be replaced. Our warrior. Our hero. Our angel. Dustan Colyer.  9-11-94 / 10-11-17.”

Colyer created DC Strong when he was still a student at Plainwell High School. The 2012 graduate is still honored there each year at the alumni basketball game.

While battling cancer five times in his short life, he found the time to start DC Strong’s “Cancer Response Unit,” an army of friends that bring hope and happiness to children battling cancer.

The group helps other children live life to fullest by providing care packages, “dream days,” and long-term mentoring to relieve the pain and depression of cancer.

As the mission spread to help as many kids as possible, DC Strong became nationally known with support offered from the likes of the band Shinedown who even collaborated with them on a short YouTube film, “No one fights alone.”

The day after Colyer’s passing, DC Strong president Larry Gonzalez said Colyer’s family and DC Strong family could not have imagined the outpouring of phone calls and messages of condolences already received in just a 15-hour period.

One condolence message, from Plainwell Community Schools, said, “Dustan forever touched the lives of many people both in the Plainwell community and throughout the country. He set an example of strength and perseverance. In his 2012 Graduation Address, he encouraged his fellow graduates to not waste their lives. Dustan’s own life, while far too short, was a fine example of living to one’s fullest and doing the most good.

“While we will all miss Dustan, we are comforted in knowing that DC Strong, the nonprofit he helped establish with intentions to bring joy to other pediatric cancer patients, will live on and continue to do the good work he envisioned.”

Gonzalez said when families felt their worst, that’s when Dustan was always at his best.

“All he ever wanted to do in life was leave a legacy and we will continue to do that in his honor,” he said. “He had a lot of life goals and he accomplished them.”

Visitation will be Monday, Oct. 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. The service will be Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 11 a.m. both at Radiant Church, 8157 E. De Ave., Richland.

This story was updated to include the dates and times for memorial services.

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