Posted by Joel Keefer on Aug 18, 2017
Pictured L-R; Donna Flinchbaugh, Dustin Whitcomb, Joelle Washer
An impassioned presentation was made by Rotary Youth Leadership Awards camp attendee Dustin Whitcomb today. The Buffalo State College student was introduced by his aunt Donna Flinchbaugh. Dustin, who attended Salamanca High School, is studying film at Buff. State.
Dustin went to RYLA, which was held at SUNY Fredonia, in 2014. It was in the midst of a tumultuous  time for Dustin, who was recovering from a relationship breakup. He had plenty of free time on his hands, and RYLA was able to provide him with plenty to do during that free time. Dustin also looked to RYLA to help shape his career future, which it most certainly did.
Camp had many great aspects Dustin said, many of which centered around Rotary's motto "Service Above Self." Some of the exercises had Dustin and his team form a mock company, run it, and keep it afloat. 
However, shortly after camp ended, Dustin learned that he had Ulcerative Colitis. While being treated, Dustin was overwhelmed by the support he received from the campers he had met at RYLA. At camp, each person had to write a letter for all of the other campers. Those letters were to be saved until a time that a camper needed to open them to read for encouragement. Dustin needed those letters during the time he was being treated for the disease, and they were very helpful during his recovery. 
Unfortunately, in 2015 the medication Dustin was taking for Ulcerative Colitis literally stopped working, so he was back to the hospital. At 20 years of age, Dustin spent 2 months at different hospitals, saw dozens of doctors, and after 3 surgeries can report he is doing well. 
Dustin then told a story regarding a film he made for a Buff. State project. This film became very important when Dustin learned that his uncle was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, Dustin's uncle passed away just days ago. And to add to that, a dear friend of Dustin's recently committed suicide, which has made the Summer of 2017 a very challenging one for Dustin.
HOWEVER, because of what he learned at RYLA (and because of what he called an amazing family), Dustin has been able persevere. RYLA helped him realize that life isn't about instant gratification, but that life is a journey with peaks and valleys, which is very important for young people like him to understand. 
Following his presentation, Dustin received a long and well-deserved standing ovation.