You might not always agree with his City Council votes and you might find pieces of his wardrobe, well, loud—but if you know Mark Van Dam, you probably agree he's one of the good guys.
In addition to serving on the council, Van Dam works as a middle school teacher. Before that he served as a Los Angeles Sheriff's deputy for 10 years. He's put in countless hours volunteering with Moorpark High School, especially with the music programs, and he is an active member of the Moorpark Kiwanis Club. You'll see him from time to time supporting business at Moorpark Chamber of Commerce functions and supporting the arts and other activities in the city. Nobody can say Van Dam doesn't give a lot of himself to the community.
But now the community has an opportunity to give back to him.
Van Dam used to be incredibly physically active. He enjoyed running, cycling, paddle boarding, river raftering and other water sports. He even played college basketball.
After enduring one back and eight knee surgeries, Van Dam can't be as active as he used to be. He can't run, jog or walk long distances without pain.
Now, he said, riding a standard bike is impossible for him.
"I know my days of bicycling and running and watersports are over, but my three best friends are ice packs and a butt pad that I take everywhere I go," he said.
That's why he's entered a contest in which he has the opportunity to win a special outdoor eliptical cycle—picture a bicycle without a seat and an elliptical exercise machine set up instead of standard pedals.
He believes the equipment, made by ElliptiGo would allow him to exercise and keep in shape in a way he cannot currently.
The contest is where he needs the community's help. ElliptiGo asked people who believe their product could change their lives or inspire others to submit videos telling their stories.
Van Dam had the opportunity to try out one of the bikes in Santa Barbara not too long ago and found he was able to use it without suffering the pain a regular bike causes. But the special bikes run about $2500, and "I definitely didn't want to spend $2,500 if I could help it," he said.
So he entered the contest.
Now, he is one of six finalists. The winner will be determined by votes from the public.
Van Dam's competition consists of a 43-year-old mother of three fighting sarcoidosis, which, she explains is a disease that attacks soft tissue in the body; a 48-year-old woman who's been fighting obesity for much of her adult life; a middle school teacher and aerobics instructor who wants to show exercising can be fun; a self described "running mommy," who can no longer run and a fitness instructor who also has been through surgeries that have limited her to joint-friendly activities.
He leads the pack in votes, with 315 to the next closest 161, but he could always use more to shore up the win. If you're so inclined, you can see all the videos and cast a vote on the ElliptiGo contest Facebook page.