My name is Caley Rinker and I started Because You Can to honor my dad Hal who has battled MS my entire life. He was originally diagnosed by an ophthalmologist after suffering nerve damage in his left eye. Shortly after, the disease took hold.  My dad made the transition from a cane, to a wheelchair, and eventually he became bedridden, paralyzed from the neck down.

Growing up, I saw how the progression of MS took a toll on him physically and emotionally. It was painful and difficult for us as a family to watch him lose control of the simplest actions like holding a fork, sipping from a cup or even walking. Because of this debilitating disease, I have never known a dad who plays with you at the park or who takes you on ski trips.

But my story is a story of hope. Through it all we remained a family and despite this horrible disease, my dad is a remarkable man. He is someone I deeply admire and I wouldn’t change our circumstances for anything. He has taught me that through hardships there are blessings to be found. I have learned from him to cherish the little things in life that we all take for granted, like a hug or a kiss. Things he can no longer do.

In May of 2013, I got a call from my mom saying, “Come home. Your dad has pneumonia. His lungs are filling up with fluid and isn’t going to make it through the weekend.” My dad has been in and out of hospitals many times over the years, and he’s had very close calls, but I knew this was it. How is it possible for someone to keep going? Despite the grim outlook, he pulled through and was able to fight off the pneumonia.

My husband Alex and I had planned a trip to Italy and left a few days later. Hiking Cinque Terre was a life-changing experience and something I’ll never forget. While hiking, I kept thinking: I’m here in this beautiful place with my husband. I’m healthy, happy, and I can’t believe I get to experience this. I was overcome with a powerful sense of happiness and gratitude. I felt extremely blessed to physically be able to hike—something my dad will never do. So I decided I had to do something more…

I came home, and after telling my dad about the trip, he said to me, “Why do you do all of these amazing things?”

“Why?” I asked.

And he responded, “Because you can.”

Those words were so simple but so powerful. I made a decision that I had to do something to raise awareness for this disease. Because I can. Because I am able to do this. Not someone else. ME. I can make a difference.

That is really the message we are trying to convey. You don’t know what life is going to throw at you or the challenges you are going to face. Don’t take the small gifts in life for granted. Go and challenge yourself and do incredible things. Read a book because you can read, run a race because you can run, or hike that mountain you've always wanted to!

Live your life to the fullest #BecauseYouCan.