Editor’s note: Daily News readers may remember the late Naples radio talk show host Rich King. His spirit drove his son, Daniel Weidenbruch, a local attorney, to compete in an IronMan event last weekend in Louisville, not far from Cincinnati, where King and his family were known for his earlier radio work as well as important medical research.
Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, followed by 112 miles on a bicycle and a full 26.2-mile marathon, with no breaks in between. He did it in 14 hours, 35 minutes — well short of the 17-hour time limit.
Here is an except from Weidenbruch’s powerful, inspirational message to would-be charity donors in advance of the IronMan. Donors have pledged more than $54,000 and can still take part by going online to www.dwironman.com/?pfund_campaign=50 and contributing to one of his five designated charities, or all of them.
By Daniel Weidenbruch
As you can imagine, the last 15 months of training have brought many highs and lows including some doubts as to whether I can actually do this. This has resulted in some major soul-searching lately.
When I first signed up I really believed that it was because I am competitive and did not want to back down from a challenge.
But I quickly realized that there was more driving me than simply proving others wrong.
It is about passion, sacrifice, fear, regret, and, most importantly, my family, my beautiful wife, my kids and my desire to use my talents and the opportunities presented to me to improve the world.
A brief background is in order.
I was blessed with the privilege and honor of being adopted and raised by the two greatest parents in the world. Although I often times took it for granted, the life lessons they taught me have shaped who I am today. They faced, and overcame, almost every challenge imaginable.
I watched them turn the death of my brother Ricky (age 4) into a lifelong dedication to helping others. More than 30 years, tens of thousands of children’s’ lives saved and countless millions of dollars raised, that mission and dedication is still going strong with the Ricky King Children’s Fund.
In 1992 I watched my father, having been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and given a one percent chance of surviving, become one of the first people in the United States to survive and beat it. He did that through countless treatments of radiation and chemotherapy all while continuing to work and live up to the responsibility he cherished most — being a dad. He never missed a school function. He never missed a basketball game or awards ceremony. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but he was driven by something more than just proving those doctors wrong. He was driven by an immeasurable love for his family and a commitment to see to it that we were taken care of.
Then, in 2001, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that was spreading rapidly throughout his body. He was given three to six months to live. I remember him telling me those odds, but it was what he said afterwards that I will never forget. He said, “We can do it again.” I knew exactly what he meant. And I believed him.
He did, in fact, beat the odds as he survived almost two years before passing away on June 21, 2003. It still pains me to say it, but I wish the doctors would have been right. During those two years I watched as the cancer spread inside him. I watched him go through each and every day in intense pain. The man I once thought was invincible was losing this battle. But he could not — he would not — give up. My mom wouldn’t either. She stayed with him every step of the way, always with a brave face and a smile.
I realize now why they did that. It wasn’t for their benefit. It was because they knew I was watching. My parents always taught me that I could do anything and everything that I put my mind to, but only if I committed myself to it 100 percent and did not stop trying until I accomplished it. They taught me to never embark on something that I did not intend to give everything I had to see it through to completion.
Although I had witnessed it my entire life, it wasn’t until those last six months of my dad’s life that I truly realized it and could appreciate the impression it had made on my life. I always knew I was competitive. I just didn’t know why.
Now ... wwhat does all of this have to do with why I am doing this IronMan? While I pray to God that my kids never have to experience the heartache and loss that I had to experience to understand and appreciate those life lessons, it has become clear to me that there are fewer and fewer opportunities in today’s world to teach them with real actions. The old adage is true: “talk is cheap.”
In addition, in a world where the meaning and importance of success and accomplishment is often diluted in favor of equal results and “fairness”, I see a crisis (and indeed a complete vacuum) of passion, drive and competitiveness in my kids’ generation. I have grown increasingly frustrated over the years as I witness my kids and their friends missing out on so many of the opportunities for growth that have shaped so many generations before us and what made this country what it is today. Those opportunities originate with an encouragement to take on challenges and risks that, at the time, seem impossible. Many times failure is the result; however, it is the drive to overcome that failure that makes the eventual success that much greater. That much sweeter.
Rather than being pushed to excellence, I see our kids accepting average as “good enough.”
I know others are watching. Although I have been steadfast in encouraging my kids (and anyone else who will listen) to push their limits and to seek excellence in all that they do, I also acknowledge that, to this point, I have failed to back up my words with actions. It is, after all, our actions that our kids watch and emulate. It’s not what we say; it’s what we do.