Sunday, October 5, 2008

And Now For . . .

Congratulations to Brenda Olien who won the “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life” contest. Brenda nominated her husband, Dan Olien, a gentleman who made a difference in many lives as you will soon see. A special thanks to Dan’s sister, Jenna Harris, who shared with me some additional factual information and special memories which helped me to tell Dan’s story and create his character to the best of my ability. Now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to . . .

Dan Olien

Dan Olien was a runner. He began running competitively in middle school and continued to run track and cross country at Newark High School and Otterbein College. As an adult, he ran the Columbus Marathon twice and qualified for the Boston Marathon in addition to running dozens of smaller races.

It was only natural that Dan would choose a career as a physical education teacher and a track and cross country coach. While Dan enjoyed teaching, coaching was his calling, his passion. He loved his runners. He was thrilled to see them succeed and cried with them when they had a bad race. He motivated his team before each race by quoting positive sayings such as, “Go give them the business.” He even designed the team’s shirt each season. Dan was district coach of the year for multiple years and was a district representative for the Ohio Association of Track and Field and Cross Country. He always did his best to promote the sport of running.

The only things Dan loved more than running and coaching were his wife and his son. Unfortunately, his time with them was short. Dan and Brenda met at New London High School where they both taught. They went on their first date on December 6th, 2002. On January 6, 2003, Dan was diagnosed with brain cancer. Deciding not to waste any of the precious time they had together, they got married on June 7, 2003, just six months after their first date, and a little more than two years later, on September 20, 2005, Dan became a daddy. If Dan was happiest when he was coaching, he was proudest when his baby boy, Jon, was born. He would say of little Jon, “He has my profile.” Dan and Brenda took Jon to his first cross country meet when he was just two weeks old, and to the state meet when he was only two months old. Dan loved to show off his little “profile.”

In early 2006, Dan’s health began to rapidly deteriorate. On July, 6, 2006, after running a three-year race against an unseen opponent, his body finally succumbed to the cancer. But Dan Olien’s legacy as a loving husband, a proud father, and a dedicated coach will live on forever as illustrated by the crowd of people that attended his viewings and funeral.

In The Heart’s Journey Home, Dan’s character is a strong, healthy cross-country coach and physical education teacher who helps Kate, the main character and a former runner, train to run her first marathon. I pray that through this experience Dan’s memory is honored in the utmost way: that everyone who reads The Heart’s Journey Home will be inspired by Dan and filled with the desire to “go give them the business.”

I am going to ask you to pray today for my dear friend and fellow teacher, Jana Iwanowski. I mentioned her two posts ago. She doesn't know that I'm adding her to my list of prayer concerns so I hope she's not too mad at me :) but she has been trudging up a mountain here lately that would make most of us want to give up, I think. Jana is a wonderful mother of beautiful, 5-year-old triplets (two boys and one girl) and a very dedicated and effective fourth grade teacher. Recently, Jana had to face the grim reality of admitting her mother, whose health has been rapidly deteriorating due to Alzheimer's, into a nursing home. My heart has been so heavy for my friend and I just can't imagine the burdens she is having to shoulder. She is a very, very strong Christian - one of the strongest I know, but that doesn't mean that her heart isn't breaking or she isn't feelign the pressure of having to care for her three children and her mother. Thankfully, she has a wonderful, supportive husband and mother-in-law, but extra prayer can never hurt so please lift my friend Jana and her mother up today. Pray for them for peace and patience, for understanding and discernment. Also, I'm asking for prayer for my friend, Carie Lawyer, whose father has recently had a stroke. I don't know his name, but the Lord does. Please pray for healing for Carie's father and for peace for Carie. Now for the updates . . . my best friend from high school, Patty Smith, is still going through chemo for ovarian cancer, but I'm pleased to report that she's doing okay with it. She is in between treatments right now and her mother and father are taking her, her husband, her sister, and her sister's husband to Williamsburg, Virginia, for a little, much needed get-a-way. I'll be seeing her next week (the week of the 13th) and I'm sure I'll have plenty of photos to share with you after we get back. Her next treatment is scheduled for Friday the 17th so be in prayer for her about that - that it can continue to go well and be effective. My sister, Julie Roeder, who is expecting her second child in March (and who I will be seeing next week also) continues to do well. She has a doctor appointment at the end of this week so pray that everything keeps moving along smoothly and that my little niece or nephew is developing perfectly. Our little friend, Tyler, the two year old with cancer, has been undergoing treatments and is very sick. The good news is his tumors are shrinking! Praise God! The not-so-good-news is that the poor little guy has already has a bone marrow transplant and may have to have another. It's so much for a little boy to have to bear. Please, please, pray for little Tyler. Pray that God continues to shrink those nasty tumors and that the Lord will restore his health. Pray for his parents to have a supernatural strength to help their precious baby boy through this. I can't imagine the heartache they must been feeling. Pray for his doctors to have the wisdom to know exactly what to do to help our little friend battle this rotten opponent.

I guess that's it for now. Stay tuned. My next post will include a snippet, I promise. And remember, if you or someone you know has a prayer concern (even if it is unspoken - God knows all of our needs after all) please email me personally through my profile and I will be more than happy to post it. There IS power in prayer!


Anonymous said...

Dan and Cassie leave strong legacies of faith and love, and I think it's terrific of you to help make sure they're never forgotten. Thanks for sharing their stories.

Jen Riffle said...

Thanks so much, Ramona!!! Yes, I, too, believe that Cassie and Dan offer a lasting legacy for everyone who knew them. This has been a wonderful experience for me to get to know them and their families! And it has been so satisfying for me to make them a part of THE HEART'S JOURNEY HOME! I just pray that through THE HEART'S JOURNEY HOME they will touch others' lives even now that they are in their eternal home, as they have mine.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing the background of your character. What a wonderful legacy this coach, husband and father has left. Also, I am adding to my prayer list those you mentioned.
Teresa Alber