Recently, I interviewed baseball legend Dave Dravecky, whose comeback bid in 1989 was one of the greatest in sports history. After surviving radical cancer surgery, a year later with the San Francisco Giants he was able to throw seven shutout innings against Cincinnati.
Then while pitching in his next start in Montreal against Tim Raines, his throwing arm broke. Three years later, after fighting off chronic infections and nerve pain, he lost his left arm to amputation.
A man of devout faith, Dravecky strongly believes his many physical and emotional struggles with cancer and amputation have had a ‘higher’ purpose.
‘We started Outreach of Hope as a result of people coming face-to-face with our story and writing us to share theirs, ‘ said Dravecky in a telephone interview from his Colorado Springs office, referring to the nonprofit organization he and wife Jan founded in 1991.
The group and what it does has been one of his passions the last 15 years.
Primarily, Outreach of Hope receives from around the nation referrals from families or individuals dealing with various physical challenges, usually cancer or amputation, and it sends them free literature meant to encourage, comfort and offer hope.
‘We send out books on our story, pamphlets, magazines, and as long as they last, copies of the Encouragement Bible’ said Dravecky. ‘We also work with cancer support groups, hospitals, churches and doctors offices, reaching about a thousand families a year.’
Of the many thousands of people helped, Dravecky remembered one in particular. ‘One day an older man walked into our Colorado Springs office,’ he said. ‘He’d been diagnosed with cancer, but was doing well, and wanted to volunteer to help others. At the time we didn’t know Wayne was a retired Air Force colonel. He’d take boxes off the shelves, unpack them, stuff envelopes, do anything.’
That is, until his cancer returned. Just weeks before Wayne died, the organization interviewed him for a video. In it, he said that many people had visited him for a few moments, asked if they could do anything for him, and then left. He said the most important thing they could have done for him would have been to stay and simply ‘be there,’ perhaps even in silence.
‘That was powerful,’ said Dravecky. ‘I will never forget Wayne’s life and journey in connecting to God with pain and suffering.’