Dylan was just 10 months old when he was first diagnosed with cancer rhabdomyosarcoma. One day the daycare called to tell Dylan's parents that he cried whenever his leg was touched. They feared he had a broken bone. X-rays were negative and numerous tests revealed no answer. Finally, Dylan's parents, Bruce and Kelly Fischbach, took Dylan to the Mayo Clinic. Doctors found cancer behind his right knee.
Surprisingly, that wasn't the really devastating time for the family. They thought they'd just have to take care of it and work on rehabilitation. They spent a year on chemotherapy and surgeries.
Then, the real devastation came. During routine testing, doctors found the cancer had returned. At age two, Dylan lost his right leg. Long months of treatment followed – chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, and long months of rehab.
Today, Dylan is extremely active. He runs; he's in sports – baseball, soccer and football.
About three years ago, Kelly was at a physical education conference at the University of Nebraska in Omaha for special needs kids. Dylan was shooting a basketball in the gym when coach Mike Kult, a former Paralympic team member, saw him shooting and asked if he wanted to join the prep wheelchair basketball league.
"It's fun!" Dylan exclaims. "I get to fly to different places for tournaments and meet players. I met Paul Schulte. He's my favorite player. He calls me his ?little man.'"
Paul Schulte started playing wheelchair basketball at age 14. Playing basketball with able-bodied individuals was difficult, but Schulte saw it as a challenge, rather than an obstacle.
Today, Schulte is an international star in the sport. His global achievements on the court have included gold medals as a member of the USA Men's Team in the 1998 and 2002 Gold Cup (World Championships), silver medal in the 2006 Gold Cup, and bronze medal in the 2000 Paralympics – in addition to being selected Tournament MVP of the 2002 World Championships. His next big goal is the 2007 National Wheelchair Basketball Association Championships.
"I am excited. I get to go to Seattle to a tournament in February, but my favorite trip was to Milwaukee, where I got to see a Bucks and Sixers game," Dylan says.
But what Dylan is really excited about is the exhibition game he gets to play in the DakotaDome on Feb. 3. It is a fund raiser for his team, the Red Dawgs, which is self-funded. Half of the proceeds will go to his team for equipment and travel, and the other half is being donated on behalf of the Vermillion Middle School Student Council to the Make a Wish Foundation. At 4:15 p.m. the prep and junior varsity leagues will play the Vermillion High School coaching staff and administrators – otherwise known as the VHS All-Star Team. During halftime of the men's Coyote game, the Red Dawgs will play against the USD football team.
"I'm excited because people I know will be there," Dylan says. "Only his grandma and grandpa have gotten to see him play, so this is really exciting for him," his mother, Kelly, says.
The prep league is made up of boys 12 years old and under and girls 13 years old and under. "There are about 12 people on the prep league team, three of which are girls." said Kelly. In order to qualify to be on the prep or junior varsity league, you must have a lower extremity, non-correctable condition. "There are kids on the team with spina bifida and cerebral palsy as well, but the majority of the team is amputees, like Dylan," said Kelly. "At one point, the kids wanted to play against each other according to their disabilities. They really have a good time and this gives them the opportunity to really excel in something."
To watch Dylan and the Red Dawgs play and support his team and the Make a Wish Foundation, tickets are being sold for $4 each. Contact the Vermillion Middle School at 605-677-7025. The price of the tickets includes the Red Dawgs games as well as the Coyote men's and women's basketball games against UNO.