Three years into his battle with cancer Dave DeSantis decided to compete at 16 XTERRA races in 16 countries on four different continents. He didn’t decide to do it just for the fun of it, rather, he made it his goal to raise $16,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) along the way.
“He told the world before he told me,” said his wife, Kathy Doyle. “I was so mad at him. But I don’t think I would have had the courage he had. Dave’s philosophy is just like XTERRA’s – Live More. Even though he was battling cancer, he didn’t want to be here if he wasn’t living to the fullest. Dave wanted to live more, not less.”
Dave was inspired to travel and discover XTERRA’s incredible World Tour destinations by elite athletes Ben and Jacqui Allen, whom he met while racing XTERRA in the Philippines in 2015.
“He said it would be so cool to travel to all of these races and different places,” remembers Kathy. “So, in 2016, we went to South Africa, the Philippines, France, and Switzerland, just to name a few. It was a magical, wonderful, scary, crazy, horrific, and amazing year.”
Because Dave was still sick, the couple had to go to a few emergency rooms where no one spoke English.
“I’m very thankful for Google Translate,” said Kathy, who often had to try to explain Dave’s complicated cancer and the associated conditions to doctors and nurses in foreign languages.
Despite the hardships of competing in XTERRA while struggling to battle cancer, Kathy and Dave didn’t regret a second of their traveling. And in the end, he doubled his goal and raised more than $34,000 for CAF.
“I know for a fact that Dave did everything possible to get the most out of the days he had left,” says Kathy. “He had so much fun and learned so much and our lives were richer because we were able to travel to XTERRAs around the world. The legacy Dave left is that now, he will help others do what he loved. Before he died he said that he wanted to motivate people to travel and knock down some of the barriers to entry that make that possible.”
With that goal, Kathy set up the Dave DeSantis XTERRA Legacy Grant, which is designed to provide one man and one woman, each year for five years (2018-2022), an opportunity to experience an international XTERRA race. The travel funded by Dave’s grant will enable recipients with financial needs to go after their biggest, boldest XTERRA travel dream.
(Go to the Dave DeSantis XTERRA Legacy Grant website).
Six-time XTERRA Regional Champ Tad Norton and Stephanie Brunnemann were awarded the inaugural Dave DeSantis XTERRA Legacy Grants in 2018.
“Kathy called me on the way to work to tell me I had won the award,” said Tad. “It was a very emotional moment for me. Dave continues to inspire with his ability to bring others along for the ride.”
Tad and Dave met in 2004 at XTERRA races in the northeast.
“Dave was always surrounded by family and friends,” remembers Tad. “One of my favorite memories was when Dave drove down to Alabama to race XTERRA Oak Mountain on Saturday and then drove through the night to race XTERRA King of the Hill the next day. I think he may have still beaten me on Sunday even though I didn’t race on Saturday. He put 100 percent into everything he did.”
This season, Tad raced in a way that would have made Dave proud. He won his age group at XTERRA Appalachia in August. He also competed in XTERRA Fort Custer, Syracuse, Sky High, French River, Jersey Devil, and Way Over Yonder. He finished second in every race except XTERRA Way Over Yonder, in which he finished third. He was named XTERRA Northeast Regional Champ in the 50-54 age group and qualified for the XTERRA World Championship in Maui, where he is excited to carry on Dave’s legacy of creating connections and maybe a pot luck dinner, as Dave often did.
Brunnemann, a talented 30-34 division XTERRA racer, was also taken aback by the honor.
“Kathy called to let me know I was the recipient of the Dave DeSantis XTERRA Legacy Grant and right after I got off the phone with her I started crying – out of just pure gratitude. He was such a great person and to do this for me, and for others, is incredible. I am so excited for the opportunity to travel to an exotic stop on the XTERRA World Tour and embrace the people and the sport like Dave did.”
In the 12 years he raced, Dave qualified for the XTERRA World Championship on Maui nine times and loved connecting with the friends he made from around the world when he was on the island. At the race in 2015, Dave received the XTERRA Warrior Award for his valiant fight against cancer.
Last year, in 2017, XTERRA re-named the Warrior Award in his honor, and it will now forever be known as the Dave DeSantis XTERRA Warrior Award.
“Dave knew so much about the meaningful things in life and he wanted to give that to people,” said Kathy. “For him, it wasn’t about the money. It was about the experience. Whenever Dave said, ‘Let’s do something,’ we always packed for a trip because Dave might be taking us on a three-hour walk or a three-day hike in the Appalachians. We never knew what he was planning, but what we did know is that it would always be an adventure.”