Mountains Are Being Moved: A Lifetime of Friendships
Updated: Sep 26
This is an edited excerpt of Joe's speech at the 2023 Cure VCP Disease Celebration on August 12, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. We appreciate Joe allowing us to share this publicly.
I met Nathan at orientation at Georgia Tech in 1994, and we hit it off on the basketball court, I believe, or at least I know basketball was involved. There are some people that you meet in life that you just know are special people and will be great friends. As we navigated the challenges of Tech and college life in general, it didn’t take long to recognize that Nathan was one of those people who does what he says he’s going to do, has conviction, is loyal, and is motivated beyond belief.
Those who know him well might also call him slightly stubborn and highly competitive. One of the stories that have been told countless times over the years is that in high school, he and Jason Contino were playing Sega Genesis, and he got so mad that he was losing that he bit his controller so hard that it left teeth marks. The proof was there, as those teeth marks were still present every time we used those controllers in college.
We laugh about those traits, but they are traits that would serve Nathan well in both his professional journey and in the incredible work that he is doing for Cure VCP Disease today.
We had a lot of great times, watched sports, played sports, and were roommates for several years.
At the beginning of our college years, Nathan’s mother, Patty Peck, had begun her fight against VCP, and it was challenging for her to walk and navigate the campus. Over our college years, it became more and more difficult for her to walk, and it was a couple of short years before she was in a wheelchair full-time and required constant care from her husband, Kenny Peck. Mr. Peck was a rock who handled the care-taking job unbelievably, and Mrs. Peck continued to be a rock for her family despite her deteriorating physical condition. Even though they were so strong, it’s hard to deny that it was tough to watch.
Another word that I can use to describe Nathan is active. He’s not one to let grass grow under his feet. I think I’ve visited Nathan and Allison in about 30 states across the U.S. over the years…
We’ve made various trips and had many adventures across the years, usually centered around sports or a casino.
I’ve always admired Nathan’s adventurous spirit and his desire to see the world while also making time to visit his friends and relatives in his journeys across the country and even the world.
On one of these adventures, six of us clowns from Georgia Tech embarked on Vegas for our 40th birthdays. In fact, all 6 of us are here tonight, which is a testament to our friendship and our support for Nathan and this great cause. We all had a great time - which is what we were told anyway…
One night during the weekend, at the Cosmopolitan Chandelier Lounge, Nathan told me the news that I hoped I would never have to hear. In true fashion, he was strong as an ox when he told me and was worried about the burden it was going to put on me for being one of the first to know. It’s remarkable that he could think of anyone other than himself at that moment. That recurring trait was setting the table for what was to come in the next few years.
I remember the pit that I had in my stomach when he told me. I knew what he was up against from seeing what Mrs. Peck had gone through. I knew what Allison was up against from seeing what Mr. Peck had gone through. I knew what his 3 wonderful boys were up against from seeing what Nathan and his sister Amanda had gone through. But I also knew that if anybody in the world had the grit and determination to fight and persevere through such a challenge, it was Nathan Peck.
But man, did he ever blow my expectations out of the water with what he has done with Cure VCP Disease.
Nathan was put in a situation where it would have been perfectly understandable if he decided to slow down and focus strictly on himself and his family as he prepared for the physical challenges to begin, but Nathan did the opposite.
He and Allison took the bull by the horns and refused to accept that there is no cure for this disease. They know that this cure is not to benefit them, but it is for future generations in potentially their own family and in families of the VCP community that they have created.
It started with networking. Nathan met Dr. Weihl, and the three of us, along with Jeannie, went to a Falcons game. I didn’t realize it, but Nathan told me later that it was a pivotal night for Cure VCP Disease as that connection with Dr. Weihl led to a lot of other connections that would set the foundation for the organization.
We went to an Uplifting Athletes event, where Nathan, Ryan, and I had a great time and got to meet some upstanding, generous college athletes who donate their time and efforts to support rare diseases. Forming a relationship with that organization led to the first-ever research grant awarded by Cure VCP Disease.
We went to another charity organization’s ALS poker event (again, gambling came into play…) to learn more about fundraising and events such as this one tonight.
Nathan and I have had Hawks season tickets for the last 3 years, and it seems that with every game, there was more exciting news about grants, patient studies, patient registries, and full-time hires for the organization, and legislations being passed, and him being on a governmental advisory board…. I mean, these are big things, folks, and in such a small amount of time.
While the games and time spent together have offered me the chance to learn about the achievements and challenges of the organization, they have also given me the opportunity to spend time with my good friend and also an opportunity to witness the physical challenges firsthand.
Over 3 years, it has become more and more difficult for Nathan to unload and set up his scooter to go from his car to the arena. We started out having seats in various areas of the arena, and sometimes, they were a few steps down, but that quickly changed to having to get seats where no steps were involved.
It’s been tough seeing my great friend become physically weaker in such a short amount of time. I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional struggles, the physical challenges, and the logistical challenges associated with the disease. I have also learned about the mountains being moved and the huge challenges that are being overcome to find a cure.
With regard to the organization, I’ve heard Nathan’s frustrations about how long it takes to get things done. If you know Nathan, you know that patience isn’t exactly on the top of the list of words to describe him. In this case, though, that has been a huge asset. With this disease, time is not on anyone's side, so Nathan’s sense of urgency is yet another essential quality that is laying the foundation to find a cure.
There is SO much involved in this quest. I’m blown away by how many steps there are and the way that Nathan, Allison, and the entire organization have used their problem-solving and networking skills to come as far as they have.
A HUGE reason for their success is due to supporters like you. Nathan has told you how your money has been put to use and the impact that it has made. Every dollar we raise is used wisely – there is no waste. Thank you for your generosity, and know that it is truly making a difference.
As I was putting thoughts together for this speech, the word that kept coming to mind was courage.
I think about Nathan's parent's courage.
I think about Nathan’s, Allison’s, and the boys’ courage.
I think about all of the VCP patients’ courage.
I think about the organization’s courage.
There is a lot of courage here. I challenge us all to keep that courage going to find a cure for VCP.
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