One brother went through chemo, the other through major surgery. Now they’re both representing New Brunswick at Winter Games

Special Olympics Team New Brunswick curler, Adam Vriesendorp, will be featured on TSN's Curling Day in Canada coverage on Saturday Feb. 22 around 5pm EST. Be sure to tune in!

Adam and Brendon stand side by side with their heads shaved, looking into the camera.
Adam, right, shaved his head in support of Brendon as he went through chemotherapy.


It’s been a long road to qualifying for the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Thunder Bay 2020 for New Brunswick’s Brendon and Adam Vriesendorp.

Since the last Winter Games in 2016, Brendon, a 24-year-old speed skater with autism, has survived cancer and Adam, a 22-year-old curler with autism, has recovered from a surgery that removed 40 per cent of his lung.

After the 2016 Winter Games in Corner Brook, Brendon was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and underwent a year of chemotherapy. Adam, the skip of Special Olympics Team New Brunswick’s curling team, withdrew from those Games because he had to prepare for surgery to remove a benign tumour from his lung that was causing an infection.

“It was tough,” Dwayne Vriesendorp said of watching both his sons battle life threatening medical issues at the same time. “I was off my rocker.”

According to Dwayne, before the 2016 Winter Games, Brendon complained about a lump on his neck.

Brendon Vriesendorp speed skates on the ice.
Brendon Vriesendorp

“On the second day of skating during competition, he was just drained right out,” Dwayne recalled. “We didn’t know he had cancer at that time. I think he didn’t say much because he was scared he was going to miss out.”

When they returned to Moncton, they discovered it was cancer and Brendon underwent 28 rounds of chemotherapy. Through it all, he hit the ice every Sunday.

“It made me feel better and gave me something to do,” said Brendon.

“If he wants to skate I’m not going to say no,” added Dwayne. “He had to do something to keep his mind off the chemo.”

Meanwhile, Adam was recovering from major surgery and unable to join his curling team at all.

“It sucked big time,” Adam said of watching his team from the stands.

“He’s a die hard curler. He lives and breathes curling,” added Dwayne. “He wanted to be on that ice so bad. It was tough to watch him on the sidelines.”

Adam poses for a photo with his curling team on the ice.
Adam, centre, with his curling team.

By September 2016, Adam was well enough to return to the sport and has been training as his team’s skip ever since. He’s ready to compete on the national stage at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Thunder Bay 2020 next week.

“I feel good,” said Adam. “Stronger than before.”

Brendon, now four years cancer-free, is also ready to take on the competition in Thunder Bay. 

“I feel a lot better,” said Brendon. “I’m going to perform better, because I have more energy.”

According to Dwayne, Special Olympics played a big role in both his sons’ recovery.

“Sport helped them,” he said. “They’re both very strong and we just never give up.” 

“We always come out on the good side of things. You can’t look back, you always look forward.”

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