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Pembroke man puts muscle into one boys fight against cancer
Joseph Walraven of Pembroke practices powerlifting recently. He began lifting weights for his health but will compete in March to help raise funds for a 5-year-old leukemia patient in Minnesota, Isaac Yarmon. - photo by Provided

Joseph Walraven got into powerlifting because he wanted to get in shape, but it’s become a way he can help someone else get well.

“I originally started lifting when I saw pictures of me when my daughter was born and I was started to look like Dad,” Walraven said. “He had a lot of health problems and died when I was young — it was Christmas break of my freshmen year of college

when he passed away. I was 19. When I saw those photos, I saw the direction I was headed in and decided I had to do something about it.”

Now 32, Walraven, will compete March 28 in Minnesota as part of Relentless, a powerlifting event aimed at raising funds to help provide hope to kids fighting life-threatening illnesses.

He has been partnered on Team Hope with Isaac Yarmon, 5, who in May was diagnosed with leukemia and is being treated in Minnesota.

So far, Walraven has raised a little more than $1,200 toward his goal of $3,000 in honor of Yarmon, who goes by the nickname “Ike” and has both a website,, and Facebook page, “Tough Like Ike.”
A Jan. 8 status update on the Tough Like Ike page begins

“Today we start the next phase of Ike’s treatment, the maintenance phase. Ike will have a spinal tap and chemo this morning and then for the next 2.5 years will be on a daily oral chemo pill, weekly oral chemo and a spinal tap every 3 months.”

That’s some routine for a 5-year-old.

For Walraven — who with his wife, Tiffany, has two girls, Madelyn, 5, and Lily, 1 — the thought that a child the same age as his oldest daughter was so sick made him jump at the chance to take part in Relentless.

So did the fact his children were born after what Walraven called “high-risk pregnancies.”

“We were going from the lowest of lows and expecting the worst to there being nothing wrong with them,” he said. “So I could easily be in the same position they are — having to deal with a child that’s sick.

“And I don’t mean to slight anyone who has a sick child, because there’s every reason in the world I should be in the same position and I’m fortunate not to be there. And because of that, the opportunity to give back to these families and to help ease the burden of what they’re dealing with a little bit, that’s a big thing to me.”

Ike’s prognosis is good, Walraven said, noting he’s been in communication with the boy’s parents as he spends time getting to the know family as part of Team Hope.

“Ike’s my partner in everything I do,” Walraven said.

To donate to Walraven’s efforts, visit
For more information about Isaac Yarmon, visit or

Read more in the Jan. 22 edition of the News.

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