Sean Nolan is comfortable on camera. During his interview he maintains eye contact with the questioner, doesn’t fumble his answers, and speaks in a steady way indicative of his dreams of becoming a sports broadcaster. And when he speaks about Connecting Champions, his eyes and voice light up with the passion he feels for the organization.
“I’ve learned how just one person’s dream can become such an amazing story… and how giving back can do so much to you as an individual,” he says, hands folded in his lap. Sean was fifteen when he was diagnosed with cancer, an age where, as his father puts it, “we’re just worried about our world and what affects us.” But Sean has a calmness about him that magnifies the strengthening of his spirit that has occurred and that his father, Rich, is so proud to witness.
His friendship with sports broadcaster Joe Block was an incredible way to learn all about the ins and outs of his potential future career, and having a friend with whom he could talk about “everything” was an indispensable part of helping Sean manage the cancer process. But it was also part of an eye opening experience involving those who give back to their community in some way. Rich expresses that “When you’re affected by a disease such as lymphoma I think you really realize what’s going on around you… you become more in tune with life. Sean has become more giving with his time, more thoughtful, and more kind.” Seeing those selfless qualities mirrored in his mentor helped Sean recognize the impact that acting on the impulse to volunteer with others can have.
When Sean was approached by someone hoping he would volunteer to spend time with a boy suffering from a brain tumor, Rich wasn’t sure how his son would react. But Sean leapt at the opportunity to become a mentor in his own way, and when he first met the boy he immediately got down on his level and engaged him in conversation and play. His ability to “get down on the level of anyone” regardless of their differences is what tells Rich that “Whatever Sean decides to do Sean is going to be a success at.” This giving quality was amplified by Sean’s diagnosis as well as his friendship with Joe, and his father believes that “without this journey, that spirit might not have come through in such an immense way.”
This journey and Sean’s relationship with Connecting Champions has opened his heart and his mind in ways that for some people take years or never happen at all. Inspired by his friendship with Joe and his realization of the importance of giving back, Sean believes that “The miracle of life is being able to use my story and my battle to help somebody else.” Sean and his family have been uplifted by their communities throughout this trial and in turn they have become inspired to go to greater lengths, to give not just of their time, but of their hearts.