That’s how, Daniel Robles, husband and father of two: 8 year old, Drae, and 14 month old, Weslie, described himself when we first crossed paths via email. Currently living in Sandy, Utah, with his wife, Suzie, of 9 years, it was evident to us at Mission Critical that Daniel was an incredible dad.
Just weeks after the birth of their first daughter, Drae was diagnosed with the ΔF508 strain of Cystic Fibrosis.
Though currently in software sales, Daniel is an avid crossfitter and former snowboarder who rode with many companies including Ride Snowboards, Dragon Optics, Salty Peaks, and 32 Snowboard Boots. In the wake of Drae’s diagnosis, this love of fitness and sports has inspired Daniel to found an event to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation called the 65 Roses Crossfit 4 Cystic Fibrosis which takes place in Holladay, Utah on Saturday June 10th.
It was my honor to catch up with Daniel this week via FaceTime as he preps for this remarkable and very personal event.
Andrew Wollenberg: Nice to “meet” you!
Daniel Robles: You, too.
AW: First off, I have to give you mad props for your jump roping skills.
DR: Haha, thanks! Having had four knee surgeries, I can’t run anymore but I can jump rope for a really long time. My daughter loves to do it and watch videos of me doing it.
AW: So you have two daughters, right? And the 65 Roses Crossfit Event you are hosting is on behalf of your 8 year old, Drae?
DR: Exactly. Drae was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) at 4 weeks old. It's a pretty rare genetic disease—to have a kid with CF both parents have to have an active gene. There are about 30,000 people in United States with it; there is no cure and life expectancy is about 36 years old.
CF primarily affects the lung function and digestive system. It creates excess mucus which fills the lungs creating a layer blocking your airways—the best comparison they say is to breathe through a straw and that’s what it feels like to have CF.
So Drae does two hours of breathing treatments a day—one hour in the morning and one at night—in fact, this month was pretty rough for her. In May, she spent 16 days in the hospital hooked up to a picc line doing 4 treatments a day. She’s always been super healthy despite the CF—we’ve never missed a day of treatment in her life. CF is a behind closed doors disease. You look at my daughter and you can’t tell anything is wrong. You can’t see on the outside how difficult this is for her.
But Drae is incredible. She does 3 different nebulizers twice a day a day while wearing a vest that will shake her lungs at different frequencies to help vibrate the mucus off her lungs while the inhalation meds will help thin the mucus so she can get rid of it.
AW: She’s been doing treatments similar to that since she was 4 weeks old?
DR: Yeah, it hasn’t been easy. But it’s all she knows and she is seriously such a trooper. She’s the most positive and fun-loving kid. She takes 30 pills a day—these are horse size pills that I wouldn’t want to take and she’s super cool about it.
AW: That’s a testament to your parenting as you give her a positive outlook on the situation.
DR: We try. We are both parent mentors for newly diagnosed parents, but I would say my wife does a way better job. Dads don’t reach out to other dads like moms reach out to moms—I have shaken hands with dads and said, “Hey man, stay positive. It’s going to be alright.” Whereas moms will reach out to other moms and say “I’m freaking out!” and my wife does a way better job engaging than I do.
I feel like my role is—do you have kids?
AW: I don’t! I’m an uncle though!
DR: That’s awesome! Well, when it’s your kid, if someone were to harm your kid, you’d be angry. You want to be your kid’s superhero. Anything that hurts your kid, you want to take care of them. My daughter has CF and my way of fighting back is to raise money and awareness. 100% of the money we raise is donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation —none of it goes to Drae’s medical bills or for her future. I have been very fortunate to have a good job with a good company. Though if I was a millionaire, I think I would pay all the money in the world for my daughter to have a cure.
AW: Do you find the events you organize give you the support you need?
DR: It’s an outlet and an avenue, for sure. It’s hard for people to understand exactly what we go through. They can keep you in their thoughts and pray for you but at the end of the day, we can’t always put into words what is a way of life for our family. We don’t share too much in terms of the day-to-day routine, but if you come into our home, you would see how it’s part of everything we do. Like we have hand sanitizer on every counter because CF weakens your immune system so the common cold can be pretty bad for Drae.
AW: What is the 65 Roses Crossfit event like?
DR: Oh man, it’s awesome. This year, we have 65 teams with 130 athletes. Our event is this Saturday and we have a cancelation list of people who want to participate. The athletes go through three events—65 reps of 7 different workouts. But people love brutal workouts in the crossfit world. They do 65 wall balls, then do a 65 foot handstand walk and hop on the rowers. It’s nasty!
While these workouts are hard, it’s a reminder that having CF is hard too.
65 Roses is Drae’s favorite event. [“65 Roses” is a term often used by young children with cystic fibrosis to pronounce the name of their disease, since Cystic Fibrosis can be difficult to say.] We do a 100 mile bike race. We do bake sales. We do a golf tournament and this crossfit event. She doesn’t have the attention span for golf and she only sees the finish line a the bike race. But she can be part of the whole thing at the crossfit event. And it’s co-ed, so she sees strong women doing it. She sees dudes like her dad.
AW: How active is Drae?
DR: She plays soccer and she’s an awesome swimmer. She’s super active.
AW: Does being active help?
DR: For sure! Even just jumping on the trampoline, shakes things loose. Holding her breathe while swimming—anything to keep the lungs strong.
AW: Are there things that you do specifically to enjoy every moment with your daughter? How do you handle that? Having a timeframe is unusual for most people.
DR: Yes, we feel like our time is limited. Material possessions are like, the last priority. Anything we can do to make memories—Christmas she may get one gift, but we focus on giving adventures and will go on trips. This year, I rented an RV and we are taking a trip in August, probably to Banff, Canada.
AW: Time together is so much more crucial than material goods. Were you always that way? Or did this shift after her birth?
DR: No, I didn’t always think that way. I used to snowboard professionally. So from when I was 17 until I was about 26 or 27, I rode for a few companies, traveling around. Her diagnosis changed things for sure. I needed to be home. I thought “I can’t just leave this to my wife.” It was humbling. I was traveling all over just to snowboard and I loved nice things back then. Now, I know I don’t need that nice car—that’s stuff’s not important.
AW: Something that’s pretty personal is that I know you spent a lot of time trying decide if you were going to have another child. What can you tell me about that journey?.
DR: Ah man, that brings me back. So, because my wife and I both have the CF gene, it was a really tough decision process. At the end of the day, we thought “if there is going to be another CF kid, we should be its parents.” We know CF. We have a daughter that is thriving and is healthy. So we rolled the dice. A few days after she was born, the doctor called to tell me that my second daughter, Weslie, does not have CF and is not even a carrier of a gene which is so rare. There was a 25% chance of her having CF and a 75% chance of her carrying the gene.
I was super happy and excited for a second but the only thing I could think about was how can I tell Drae that her sister doesn’t have it. The whole time my wife was pregnant she kept saying things like “My sister will have it and get shots like me and I will tell her not to be scared.” I knew it was going to break her heart.
We waited about 3 weeks to tell Drae because we wanted her to bond with her sister and try an avoid her becoming resentful of her in any way. When we finally told her, it was the craziest 10 minutes—2 minutes of crying and disappointment and the next 8 minutes of her saying “I’m so glad she doesn’t have CF, that she doesn’t have to go through this. I love her so much.”
AW: She’s mature beyond her years.
DR: We work really hard to acknowledge her and build her up. Saying things like “The Lord didn't think Weslie was strong enough to have it and battle it,” “We are Drae’s Dream Team, not Weslie’s Dream Team.” “There are so many people there for you. You’re their hero.” Statements like that build her up.
AW: What a journey this has been.
DR: I’m pretty determined, pretty motivated by Drae. It can be pretty stressful sometimes because I put a lot of pressure on myself—she made a wish once: “I wish that my dad will cure Cystic Fibrosis.” Of course, I’m like “Oh man, I can’t cure it!!” I’m just trying to fund the foundation and raise awareness. It is such a small CF community but they are passionate and determined to find a cure. In just the 8 years I’ve seen Drae go through this, the treatments have improved so much I am blown away. Who knows? Maybe in five years, she may just have to take 1-2 pills instead of 30 a day.
AW: One of the things I am doing with this interview series is discussing the concept of a legacy and what that means to you with your children?
DR: My family is my legacy. I’d want Drae to grow up knowing that. My dream is that she outlives me. I know I will never know what it's like to have CF, but I want her to know I was fighting alongside of her.
I’d like for her to know that she inspired a lot of people to be part of this movement. She was [the] motivation for people to reach deep, participate—people who don't even know her personally but they are motivated to participate.
My wife is great about documenting the process—one of her instagram videos has thousands of views and truly, the comments help Drae when she’s having a tough time. Its pretty cool that they don’t know her and they are moved to give her encouragement.
AW: You're a prime example of how hard a dad will work to support his family and make his children feel loved and appreciated. And the number of people you get involved to make her feel that way is awesome. That’s our mission as a company to honor dads that are doing this kind of stuff—amazing dads that are going above and beyond to improve the lives of their children, families, and communities.
I believe that when you're doing something from the heart, it touches people. There is an energy and momentum that draws people to it—like a moth to the light. Your work is important and it raises awareness and I hope that’s what leads to cures for these kinds of things. If anything, it can help lead to finding one’s purpose.
DR: Totally. However we came to the intersection of having CF in our lives, we agree that we aren't going to let this compromise our quality of life. We aren’t going to dwell on it, or be sheltered, or let our daugher be limited by it. Everyone has a different way through this—what we have done and will always try to do is to grab onto the positive approach.
AW: My hat is off to you. It’s incredible how you have faced this part of your life and really turning it into something inspiring that’s a force for good and change.
Thank you for sharing your fatherhood story—I’m really honored to share it with our Mission Critical community.
Learn more about Daniel's event - 65 Roses, Crossfit 4 Cystic Fibrosis below:
65 Roses, Crossfit 4 Cystic Fibrosis
When danger comes around, there’s only one thing to do - activate Dad Mode. While some superheroes have spidey-senses or x-ray vision, dads have the epic power to save kids from themselves. So, we’re celebrating National Superhero day by sharing our favorite, epic “Dad Mode” activations.
4. Ridin’ to the (almost) danger zone.
With Dad's knack for saving the day, there is no need to send a signal into the sky. Cheers to the superheroes who don’t wear capes.
Happy Earth Day from Mission Critical. Our logo is inspired by honeycomb as our founders are avid bee keepers. Bees also play an important part of the ecosystem so we are celebrating by sharing some interesting facts about bees.
The Importance of Clean Water
Bees need a clean reliable water source that is easy for them to access. Why? Fresh water is used for cooling the hive, decrystallizing honey and helping the Nurse Bees create Royal Jelly to feed the larvae. Bees can easily drown in water, so it’s crucial to provide a shallow water dish filled rocks or twigs where they can land.
The Illusive Queen
The Queen Bee, or “mother” bee, can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day. She has attendants who feed and clean her so she can focus on laying eggs. Her presence infuses and unites the hive as a single entity. While she is the only bee within the hive who lays eggs, she is not the “ruler” of the hive--a beehive operates as a single organism, making decisions collectively. She can be difficult to spot amongst her attendants but check her out below!
Swarming is the honeybee’s natural method for reproduction and expansion. It occurs when the older queen leaves an established hive with half of the bees to find a new location, leaving behind a new queen and the rest of the workers. Bees are at their most gentle when they swarm, as they have no hive to defend and are operating on trust and instinct that they will find another home. It is an awe-inspiring event!
Drones: Gentle Giants
Drones are the male Honeybee. Larger than the female worker bee and without a stinger, they are gentle giants whose bodies help warm the brood nest. While a drone’s primary focus is to mate with a queen, he is also the glue that connects all the colonies within the landscape, since drones are the only bee allowed into neighboring hives. Basically, they keep a pulse on what’s happening in the ‘hood!
Bees make a huge impact on the food we eat and the environment we see. So next time you're out on a hike and see a little honeybee, make sure to say thanks!
We applaud these bold parents who share their love of nature with their little ones. These adventurous moments with mom, dad, and baby prove that it’s never too early to enjoy the great outdoors. Take a look at 9 of the bravest babies we’ve seen on social media.
(credit: @xoxo_maragarita - Instagram)
(credit: @naya_says, @gabrielnunez1 - Instagram)
(credit: @andresamadaorarts - Instagram)
(credit: Hans Howard, Facebook)
(credit: @addieday - Instagram)
(credit: @arrudawakening - Instagram)
(credit: @justinsteeley - Instagram)
(credit: @metromancave - Instagram)
Whether you go hiking, fishing, or traveling, you’ll carry with confidence in Mission Critical’s baby carrier. The great outdoors is calling - will you answer it?
Meet Gabe Nunez, he is one of our Mission Critical Brand Ambassadors. Gabe is a Professional Freerunner, Hollywood Stuntman, CEO of Tempest Freerunning, and, most importantly, a father.
We sat down with Gabe to find out how he blends being a dad with his impressive professional life. Check out our Q&A with Gabe, and leave us a comment below to let us know: How do you balance your professional aspirations with being a father?
How do you balance your career as a professional athlete/stuntman with being a father?
I'd be lying if I said anything other than "I don't know, I'm still figuring this out". My rule of thumb has been that I don't leave town for more than two weeks at a time anymore. My wife & I are fortunate to be able to bring our daughter with us to work for most days, aside from when I am working on set, so that has been a huge plus.
How do you stay connected with baby Naya while you’re on the road?
Two words, or maybe it's one... FaceTime!
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned about yourself since becoming a father?
That I am an emotional being! Ha, there's nothing like having a daughter to teach a man how to get in touch with his emotional side!
How do you spend quality time with Naya? What does play time look like at your house?
Play time at our house consists of dancing, hide n seek, daddy scaring Naya around each and every corner, reading books, playing with toys and putting toys away, and most importantly skateboarding outside & exploring her movement skills in the Tempest Academies!
How important is it for you to explore the outdoors with Naya?
That's probably the most important thing we do! Whether its walks, hikes, skating, car watching or star gazing, she loves being outside!
How engaged/aware is Naya when you two are out on adventure? Can you tell she’s having fun?
Absolutely engaged. She loves to point out things she recognizes like buses, motorcycles, airplanes, and the moon. She's also not afraid to scream and clap her hands when she's having fun on the skateboard or feeling accomplished for climbing onto something.
What have been some of the most memorable adventures you guys have gone on so far?
A family trip to Mexico when she was about 8 months old, exploring the Tempest academies and watching her test her limits on the trampoline, as well as the everyday skate sessions. I enjoy watching her experience new things no matter what they are!
What is your funniest fatherhood memory thus far?
It's gotta be watching her go from crying to smiling and dancing immediately when a Justin Beiber song comes on. She has the fever!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since becoming a new dad?
Creating our new normal. It's been difficult to create a regular schedule that allows me to do what I need to do for my own happiness/success while also doing what is needed to support my wife and daughter. I'm working on it, and have a feeling that I will always be working on it! Ha. That's probably my new life mission!
How does your parenting style differ from the way your father parented you?
Hard to say at the moment since I don't remember his parenting style when I was 1, but I assume I'm a bit more hands off in how I let her figure out the world. I'll have to ask him that!
What advice would you give to new fathers?
Don't lose who you are while trying to raise your child. So far my wife and I have been really good at trying to maintain our lifestyle and continuing to do things that we enjoy. The only difference is that now we are bringing our new little friend along! Remember the baby is coming into your life, not the other way around. We believe that happy people raise happy kids so we try hard to continue enjoying things that we did before having a child...
Last question, how would you rate your diaper changing skills?
I'm a diaper changing magician! Not sure that's something I need on my resume but what can I say? I've had lots of practice.
The value of outdoor adventures, little or large, cannot be underestimated. Sure, experiencing new and fun adventures with your child is rewarding and memorable, but the value of outdoor adventures goes way beyond building a bank of rose-tinted memories. Active outdoor adventures are known to bring real health and developmental benefits to children. According to child psychologist, Dr. Mandy Bryon, when children are allowed to experience risk, even in a controlled way, it helps develop their ability to deal with adversity and build self-confidence. It encourages them to think for themselves and develop resilience. It readies them for dealing with risks and uncertainties that are part of the big wondrous world. So we ask, who doesn’t want more active, healthy, resilient, confident and independent children?
As dad’s, we tend to undermine the value of our playful relationships with our children as second tier to the intuitive, hormonal connection mother’s have with children. Rest assured, being a source of entertainment and fun is a gateway to a more bonded connection that will reinforce your role as a security figure. Below are five adventures dads can take with their children to build a strong, lasting bond.