GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) – This spring, students in the Diesel/Heavy Equipment Mechanics program at Careerline Tech Center learned a great deal about motor repair and replacement while working on the vehicle of a classmate undergoing cancer treatment, but what they learned through “giving back” was an especially impactful life lesson on helping others.

Second-year Diesel/HEM program student, and recent Hudsonville High School graduate, Gavin McClain received an osteosarcoma diagnosis in January of 2020 that metastasized to his lungs, yet he rarely missed a day of class throughout treatment. After returning for his second year of the program, McClain’s truck became one of the class projects. Diesel/HEM instructor Jason Alberda said it came to his attention that McClain’s truck needed head gaskets installed, and it was going to cost a lot of money to get that done in a shop. “Gavin McClain and his family have gone through a lot over the past couple of years,” Alberda said. “I brought up Gavin’s need to my students, got the okay from our Director, and the students got to work repairing his truck.”

The entire class of students took part to make the repairs happen, including McClain when he wasn’t at medical appointments. Students picked up his truck and delivered it to school; others picked up and delivered parts. Students came early and stayed late to finish the job, and learned how to work on engines along the way.

Instructor Kevin Wiersma said, “Gavin maintained his grades, always did his best, and did not want special treatment. He just wanted to learn and do the projects. We had a special lifted chair for him so he could continue learning if standing became too uncomfortable.”

To offset the cost of repairs, Tech Center staff and students reached out to their contacts at local dealers and repair shops. Once students shared the story of what they were doing, the businesses stepped up with their support.

“Merchant Automotive and Robert DeNooyer Chevrolet Inc. donated parts and saved the project a lot of money,” Alberda said. “Many other companies decided to complete repairs and supply parts at a discount or free, including Performance Engineering Racing Engines Inc. and Adema Alternator & Starter Service.”

Alberda said McClain has had more struggles than anyone deserves, but his attitude and drive continue to amaze and inspire him, and he’s thankful Tech was able to help him and his family in this way. “Sometimes, in this day and age, it is not easy to see the best in people or this world,” Alberda said. “But seeing the generosity of our business community, and having a front-row seat to the willingness of people to help out others in need, affirms my hope for our future.”

“There are days where it seems like you cannot ever win,” McClain said. “But you cannot ever give up.”

To help support Gavin and his family with ongoing medical costs, a GoFundMe account has been established at, or visit AAC Credit Union at 12390 Riley St., Holland, MI 49423 and donate to Gavin McClain’s Benefit account: 251644050.