Dylan Rheker and parents Mark and Theresa pose with Phil Kraft, left, who represents Chesterfield Township on the Macomb County  Board of Commissioners.

Dylan Rheker and parents Mark and Theresa pose with Phil Kraft, left, who represents Chesterfield Township on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

Photo provided by Theresa Rheker

Local middle schooler named Volunteer of the Year

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 3, 2018

MOUNT CLEMENS/CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP — Dylan Rheker doesn’t let anything keep him from doing good for others.

The eighth-grader at L’Anse Creuse Middle School-East was recently recognized at the National Junior Honor Society induction for completing more community service hours than any other student at the school with 236. It’s a new record for boys in the school’s history.

On April 25, Rheker was again honored for his service, as he was named by the Macomb County Board of Commissioners as a Macomb County Volunteer of the Year.

These achievements are made more commendable because Rheker is living with obstacles that many others do not face.

Rheker, 14, was born with neurofibromatosis, or NF, a condition that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves. There is no cure.

In 2007, Rheker was diagnosed with brain cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy for the past four years. He is legally blind in his left eye and has limited vision in his right eye. The biopsy that was done at the start of the cancer diagnosis caused weakness to the right side of his body.

“But that doesn’t stop him,” said his mom, Theresa Rheker. “It’s been tough from day one, but Dylan has never complained. He is strong.”

The diagnosis also doesn’t stop him from earning straight A’s at school, and his mother added that he’s none too happy when he doesn’t earn an A.

Rheker said his favorite subjects are math and science.

He enjoys fishing and ice fishing with his dad, Mark, and loves the Detroit Tigers and watching his favorite players Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.

When asked why he volunteers so much of his time, Rheker, who resides in Chesterfield Township with his family, said it’s just always been something he’s loved doing.

“I like to help people a lot,” he said. “It makes me feel good.”

Rheker was recognized for his volunteerism at the Village of East Harbor senior living facility, at Francis A. Higgins Elementary School, at the Anna Mae Burdi Early Childhood Center, as well as at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and Roseville Community Schools.

Theresa Rheker said her son most enjoys volunteering with senior citizens at a local nursing home.

“I push them to dinner and I play games with them,” Rheker said, adding that he also volunteers in the morning at his school store. “It makes me feel like a better person.”

The proclamation to Rheker, signed by Macomb County District 8 Commissioner Phil Kraft, reads: “You are the definition of going above and beyond in your volunteer service.” It concludes with: “Your individual contributions through volunteer service have improved the quality of life and strengthened the well-being of the community.”

Rheker said receiving the award was a moment he’ll never forget.

“It was amazing to me when everybody clapped for me. It was exciting, too. My parents were so proud,” he said. “It felt so good to me.”

Theresa Rheker said it was an emotional evening for the family.

“We are beyond proud of Dylan. He is one amazing person, inside and out,” she said. “He is our hero.”

May is Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month. To learn more about NF, visit ctf.org.