About Me


  • Route: Sierra
  • Ride Year: 2024
  • Hometown: Dumaguete, Philippines

About: Hello, I'm Ian! First of all, I just want to say thank you.

Thank you for being here with me on my page today, and for taking the time to allow me to share my story with you. Who I am, why I ride, and the unexpected journey that led me to The University of Texas and the Texas 4000 team.

I am going into my senior year at UT, and I am majoring in Health & Society, with a minor in French. I am an only child, to two wonderful parents, Bill and Laura Denning. I was born in Dumaguete, Philippines and I lived there for the first three years of my life. For the majority of my childhood, we lived in Houston, Texas.

However, whether it was for my parents' career or my pursuit of Ice Hockey, I have been fortunate enough to live all over the United States and Canada. From Maine to Colorado Springs, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, and Manitoba, all of these places have shaped me into the person that I am today.

Outside of school, I work in the Emergency Room at St. David's Hospital under the amazingly talented and committed nurses and physicians there. I am also serving in the U.S. Army Reserve/National Guard component, as a Combat Medic (68W).

Outside of that, I love finding time for hobbies like yoga, running, reading, thrift shopping and spending time with the people closest to me. Cooking, however, has become my most intense hobby as of late. My roommate and best friend since high school (whose name is also Ian), is a pastry chef at The Getty Center in Los Angeles!

Since living with him in Austin, both of us have taken a headfirst deep dive into the world of (at home) gastronomy. Whether it's sweet or savoury, the only thing I love more than making good food is to share that food with good company!

Before I talk about why I ride, if you would like to reach out to me, please do not hesitate! Whether it is about yourself or anyone you would want me to ride for, I would be grateful for the chance to learn more about your story or theirs. You can reach out to me at ian.denning@utexas.edu or (832) 283-9486.

Why I Ride

This whole thing was an accident. I never planned or ever thought once that I would be a student at this university or become a part of an organization of this magnitude.

After high school, I spent two years playing Junior Ice Hockey in Canada and New York. It was one of the most life changing experiences I've ever had. It was the principal catalyst, that planted a “seed of change” in me. A seed which started to grow and take root when I began to play for the Waywayseecappo Wolverines.

Waywayseecappo is a First Nations reservation in rural, southwestern Manitoba. Living there was a cultural shock that changed me forever. It was a change that led directly to a change in my personal values. I found myself reacting to others with much greater sympathy, love, and forgiveness.

The transition was the result of the Canadian government's relationship with and their treatment of the indigenous people. Their concerns were ignored, their rights violated, and their community was left in crushing poverty.

The Waywayseecappo community welcomed their hockey players with open arms, and I soon fell in love with them and their way of life. As a 19-year-old kid, I wanted to do something to help my new friends, but I felt powerless, and at the time I thought that all I could do was bear witness.

After hockey was over for me, the seed that had been previously planted began to take root. It was inspired and watered by the field of humanitarianism, specifically through the book An Imperfect Offering by James Orbinski, which is about the work done by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders).

Through Waywayseecappo, MSF, my experiences in the Army and in the Emergency Department, I have become close to the suffering of others, and the place that it holds within our collective human experience. Despite that, the diagnosis and consequences of Cancer is something that is foreign to me.

The plight of the people of Waywayseecappo, the trauma experienced by Dr. Orbinski's patients, the tragic fallout of the U.S. leaving Afghanistan, and the inequality expressed by our patients at St. David's, are all things that have brought me closer to suffering.

I wanted to bring myself closer to Cancer, and I was drawn to the idea of being part of an organization and community that helps push the needle ever closer toward a cure.

Most importantly, whenever I think of what my time is going to look like here with Texas 4000 and beyond, my mind goes to the name "Ben Stelter".

If you're a hockey fan you may have already heard of his story. Ben was a little boy who was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, at the age of five. Both Ben and his family went through a lot to try and halt the progression of his disease. Chemotherapy, surgery, and more, but ultimately it was a very difficult type of cancer to cure.

While childhood cancer is relatively rare, it's nowhere near rare enough. I did not know Ben personally, but I knew of him, because he was an Edmonton Oilers super fan. If you are unfamiliar with professional hockey, the Oilers are an NHL team out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

One meeting was all it took for the team to fully embrace Ben. From skating with the team at practices, to being out there on the ice with them before a game in front of 20,000 plus fans, to celebrating big time wins in the locker with the guys, to even getting his own hockey card made up; Ben was one of the boys.

The Oilers' victory song is "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens, and it's played after every Oilers win at Rogers Place. And now, they show a video on the big screen of Ben shouting out "Play La Bamba, Baby".

It was just so inspiring to see this little boy, going through something almost beyond comprehension, having this amazing experience. The Oilers were also doing a lot to simply help Ben and his family out, which was an amazing act of selflessness, proving that hockey is more than just a game.

Hockey players often live with host families in the city where they play, becoming very close to them. Every time I saw Ben, I thought of my little sister and little brother in Colorado Springs, Finn and Sophie, and how they were once 5 years old.

Ben's life and the impact he made on the world is undeniable. Although I didn't know Ben personally, I was one of a lot of people who were touched by his story.

But Ben's story is a rare one, in that we got to meet him, and we got to learn about him. So many families lose their kids to cancer, and we never get to meet them, and we will never get the chance to help them.

The people of Waywayseecappo have lost so much, Dr. Orbinski's patients never got the spotlight and help they so desperately needed, and on this 2024 Texas 4000 Team, we have teammates who have suffered terrible losses as well.

I ride for Ben and for everyone that he stands for. For all those who suffer and for all those who have been left behind.

The number 22 Oilers Jersey will forever belong to Ben. If you are ever in Edmonton and go to the team store at Rogers Place, you will see a number 22 Stelter jersey sandwiched between a Draisaitl and McDavid jersey.

Proceeds from these jersey sales will go to the Ben Stelter Fund, an incredible foundation aimed at helping children fight Glioblastoma and other cancers.

The fund is based on 4 Pillars, centered around Magical Experiences, Medical Equipment, Outcome Based Research, and Venture Philanthropy.

You can learn more about Ben and the mission of the foundation here: https://benstelterfund.com/

Play La Bamba, Baby — To Alaska and Back,