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  • Writer's pictureJill Teeters

Declan's Journey to College

GEC has had the honor to support Declan on his college search for the past year, but I have known Declan since he was a baby (and his mom for many more decades than I care to reveal). The joy of watching a young person embark on their college planning journey, and learning more about who they are and where they want to go in life, is inspiring. When you add on Declan’s life story, you can’t help but be in awe of this amazing young man.

Many families take for granted the typical academic milestones of childhood - first day of kindergarten, moving up to middle school, entering high school, and applying to college. These are expected moves in the game of growing up - but for Declan, and his family, there were no guarantees after his cancer diagnosis as a toddler. A brain tumor, and subsequent surgery and treatment, put all those anticipated milestones in limbo. Doctors were not sure if Declan would make it to his third birthday. Thankfully, this fighter proved them wrong!

Cancer may have hijacked Declan’s original path, but it has not stopped him from succeeding. An avid Star Wars fan, Declan embodies Yoda’s famous line, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Declan gets things done. He has risen to every challenge with the love and support of his family, and his stellar medical team. He has a significant hearing loss and a seizure disorder, but that does not stop him from achieving his goals. As Declan says, “I desire to learn and persevere. I refuse to let this diagnosis and treatment rule my life. Cancer is part of who I am, but it does not entirely define or dominate me.”

In addition to managing the lasting effects of treatment on his health, this young man has been an active fundraiser for cancer research to help other kids. A 14-year participant in the Jimmy Fund Walk, Declan’s family team, Cure AT/RT Now, has raised over $440,000! In addition, he has been a pedal partner (survivor/ambassador) for Team Kermit in the Pan Mass Challenge for 12 years, before joining the team as a rider for the first time in 2021. Declan, and his mom (pictured below), have raised nearly $20,000 in the past two years. Declan walks, and rides, each year to say thank you to his doctors and the researchers who continue to fight for a cure. Click here to learn more about his efforts.

Thankfully, Declan continues to reach his goals and milestones - and his family cherishes every single one. These are gifts that were not promised. Declan received offers of admission from each of the colleges to which he applied this year. In May, he put on his best suit, rocked a bow tie, and went to Prom. Later this month, Declan will walk across the stage to get his high school diploma while his family and friends cheer him on.

Fall brings the next big move, when Declan will be off to the University of Southern Maine (his top choice). He will be enrolled in the ASL/Linguistics program which focuses on Deaf culture, American Sign Language and linguistics for students who plan to work with the Deaf community. He also plans to earn a master’s degree in library science. He is ready for this next challenge.

So Declan, cheers to you! To every hard-won achievement, to every joy-filled moment, to the new adventure you will embark upon, and your continued commitment to helping others even while working to overcome your own challenges. You have come so far and we can’t wait to see how you continue to positively impact the world around you. Congratulations!

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