Heartfelt effort Heartfelt effort Heartfelt effort

After the tragic and sudden loss of his friend, Adam Lang found a way to honor Daniel Phelps's memory.

By Jon Marmor | June 2022 issue

The tragedy occurred nearly seven years ago. But it still doesn’t seem real that Daniel Ryan Phelps, ’10, then just 27, a former UW men’s soccer player who seemed to be in the pink of health, is gone.

Sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death in young athletes, is what Phelps succumbed to in his Seattle apartment on Dec. 13, 2015. Shock waves of grief hit his family, friends, and the UW men’s soccer program. His best friend, Adam Lang, ’10, a teammate on the Husky soccer team, knew he had to do something to honor his friend. So, he and a group of pals created an annual charity golf tournament called the DP Open to honor Phelps and raise money for the Nick of Time Foundation, a local nonprofit that screens young hearts at local schools, builds awareness of sudden cardiac arrest, and teaches kids CPR and how to use a defibrillator.

Since that first DP Open was held in 2017 at Washington National Golf Club, Lang and his friends have raised more than $130,000, which has helped screen more than 4,000 young hearts. Additionally, through their Soccership Program, they have donated money to local soccer clubs in Seattle to help make soccer more affordable for families. That’s a way to use broken hearts to literally keep other hearts beating.

Lang and his friends recently launched the DP Foundation to formalize its efforts. “Their desire to make a difference in Daniel’s memory was also our mission in Nick’s memory,” says Darla Varrenti, a Seattle-area mom who created the Nick of Time Foundation after her teenage son Nicholas died after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest in 2004. The Nick of Time Foundation is dedicated to keeping others with hidden cardiac problems alive. “Both organizations wanted to give back to our communities and the DP Open wanted to help the Nick of Time Foundation provide free EKG Youth Heart Screenings for young people in our communities.”

Says Husky soccer coach Jamie Clark: “It’s amazing how Adam and a number of classmates have taken a tragedy and … tried to make sure that it will not happen again. This has brought a group of friends together and given them incredible purpose. We always hope that sport and what it can teach and effect transcends the physical field on which we play. The DP Open is proof of this. More important than any goal that Adam has ever scored, a friendship forged out of the game will have such a positive impact long into the future.”

Daniel Phelps played as a forward on the UW men’s soccer team from 2006 to 2009.

Today, Lang works in product marketing at Smartsheet, and he and his wife Shanti have two kids, the latest coming in April. His drive to continue honoring his friend is as strong as when they entered the UW as freshmen scholarship soccer players in 2006. “Friendships were so important to Daniel,” Lang recalls. Phelps could make anyone laugh and was the “human social calendar” everyone relied on. He was in Lang’s wedding party, and died five days after the wedding ceremony.

The effort to honor Phelps and the support of the Nick of Time Foundation runs deep in the UW soccer program. Every season, the team dedicates one game to Daniel and Clark, the soccer coach, helps the soccer alumni network stay in touch.

“Daniel’s death was such a shock to us all, he was always the fittest player on the team,” says Lang. “We shared so many special memories on and off the field, and I feel so grateful for the joy and laughter he added to my life. Life will never be the same.”

You can learn more about the DP Foundation on their website. Registration for the DP Open, the upcoming charity golf tournament on Aug. 13 at Echo Falls, begins June 1. If you’d like to sponsor the DP Open, email adam@dpopen.com.