I didn’t know what to do.
I was talking to my best friend of nearly 20 years, and I was speechless. Not that I’m a big talker, but I always have something to say once my friend completes a distraction-riddled story.
But this time the story didn’t seem real. “I have cancer.”
It didn’t make sense. He was the healthy one, my go-to for fitness and nutrition answers. But just like a bad piece of content, cancer has no target audience. That was two weeks ago and thankfully, encouraging news has been coming ever since. We all know that’s not always the case.
Whether patients are in treatment or remission, their experiences create natural opportunities for storytelling that do more than just sell — they can raise money for causes that matter. Instead of the traditional influencer who relies on their social media following, inspirational storytelling involves hardship, survival and resilience. These stories inspire us to do something, when we might otherwise not know what to do.
Enter Joel Dahmen. His comeback story is sparking some major cancer fundraising and awareness campaigns.
Joel Dahmen’s Story
Cancer first touched Dahmen’s life at an early age, when he lost his mother to pancreatic cancer during high school. A star golfer, Dahmen went on to attend University of Washington on scholarship. But things didn’t work out and he left the team. Then Dahmen’s brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2009. Dahmen watched his brother successfully face treatment and decided to take a shot at professional golf in 2010. One year later, Joel himself was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“When you’re first diagnosed, you’re not sure if it has spread, you’re not sure how bad it is… it’s the battle of the unknown. That’s the scariest time,” Dahmen said.
Dahmen was lucky and caught it in the early stages. After successful chemotherapy, he was back on the course. But by the end of 2013, he was in another low spot — broke and on the couch after a stretch of poor play.
One turning point for Dahmen occurred when he glanced at an old photo of himself, post-chemo.
“I saw the picture, and I looked sick. I looked terrible. I remembered how bad that spot was, and it made me realize that things weren’t that bad. With golf you can lose sight of where you came from, how bad things really were.”
A newly motivated Dahmen found success on the PGA Canada Tour, finishing with $80,992 and winning two of his first three events. Now, the golfer from Clarkston, Washington, has his sights set on a PGA Tour card. He’s currently playing the Web.com tour, which awards the top 25 golfers with tour cards.
Dahmen said it still hasn’t really registered that his story is an inspiration to golfers and cancer victims alike. But he’s starting to look at opportunities to raise awareness.
“At first I didn’t want to be that guy. The golfer with cancer. But then I saw how I could really make a difference by sharing my story.”
The SendIt Foundation is just beginning its career as Dahmen’s begins his. The organization is about two years old and stands for, “Inspiring positivity, courage and gratitude in young adult cancer fighters through the gift of outdoor adventure and community.”
Director Katie Schou carries on the work of her brother, Jamie, who started SendIt before passing in 2014. The group organizes outdoor adventures for young adult cancer survivors and those in treatment. The inaugural program was held Sept. 18-21 at Lake Tahoe and brought attendees from California, Colorado, Vermont and beyond. The next program, SendIt Surf, will be held Nov. 6-9 in Bolinas, California.
One of the ways the foundation funds its programs is by selling SendIt apparel, which they peddle online and around their home base of Truckee, California. Dahmen learned of SendIt when he was in Truckee recently and he bought a hat from the group. He appreciated the program’s unique and positive message, and during the Web.com tour, he’ll donate to the group whenever he hits a birdie or eagle.
When adversity is overcome and used for a greater good, storytelling doesn’t get any better. “Cancer is not the end of my story,” Dahmen said. “It’s a part of it. And if I can use my experience to help others, all the better.”
What’s next for Dahmen’s story? Pledger, a crowdfunding app that enables users to donate to their favorite athletes’ causes based on their stats (and which currently has a beta version available for download), is looking to work with him when they launch in the coming months. Founder and CEO Sebastean Losch hopes Dahmen’s story will open up storytelling opportunities for all athletes and enable fans to show their support in a new and rewarding way.
How ClearVoice Helps
At ClearVoice, we believe in the power of inspirational storytelling. We are sponsoring Dahmen as he continues his PGA Tour quest.
Nonprofit organizations should contact us to learn how they can get access to our platform for free. Our content workflow system and marketplace enables nonprofits to leverage influencers, craft inspirational and informative content and create more buzz around their message.
Follow Joel Dahmen on Twitter as he competes in the final leg of the Web.com Tour Championship today in Ponte Vedra, Florida.