Winnipeg gym hosts grappling night to help send teen with genetic disorder to Spain

Eli Ducak (centre) poses with superheroes at an event with The Dream Factory. (Submitted by Josy Allen - image credit)
Eli Ducak (centre) poses with superheroes at an event with The Dream Factory. (Submitted by Josy Allen - image credit)

Winnipegger Eli Ducak, 15, is adventurous, curious and loves his cat and two dogs. He also has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

The rare genetic disorder causes fatigue and affects Ducak's connective tissue, so he has to be extremely careful with his movements. His joints can easily dislocate, and Ducak says that often happens with his ankle during gym class.

Even though the disorder is progressive and will eventually become worse, Ducak isn't letting it stop him from enjoying his life to the fullest. He's preparing to go to Spain's PortAventura world in Tarragona.

"I went to Canada's Wonderland, which had one of the best rollercoasters I've ever been on. I wanted to go to an even better amusement park. Apparently Tarragona has one of the best in the world," he said.

Ducak's family needs a little help in achieving his goal, and Manitoba charity The Dream Factory — which works with children and teens in Manitoba battling life-threatening illnesses — has stepped into help.

Submitted by Josy Allen
Submitted by Josy Allen

Ducak first got involved with The Dream Factory in 2019 after a friend nominated his family.

"They've been incredibly kind to us," says Ducak's mother, Josy Allen.

She said the charity has been supportive and generous, especially during the pandemic. The charity sent birthday gifts as well as gift cards so the family could order takeout.

"They've kind of consistently contributed to our lives," Allen said.

"It's made a difference."

Joanne Roberts/CBC
Joanne Roberts/CBC

The Dream Factory's contributions aren't stopping there. It's partnered with Brickhouse Gym to help Ducak achieve his goal of travelling to Spain.

Operations manager of Brickhouse Gym Michael Santarsieri put together a grappling event for the charity on Saturday. It featured three different grappling sports: Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling and judo. All the proceeds will go toward The Dream Factory's support for Ducak and his family.

"I wanted to work with somebody in the province, somebody where I knew where all the money was going," Santarsieri said.

"I wanted to give back."

Brickhouse Gym owner Paul Taylor said it's important to have events that bring out the community for a greater cause.

"Great charity, great cause, great night of fights," Taylor said.

Ducak said he's looking forward to seeing PortAventura World's ancient ruins and immersing himself in Spain's culture. He said he's done some research, but doesn't really know what to expect — and he's ready to find out.

"I just want to see what it's like being on the other side of the entire ocean," he said.

"Knowing that I'm going to be part of a select few who get to explore the world at large, I'm quite lucky I get to do this."