Friday, 23 September 2022

A decade of auctions


A lot has changed in the past 10 years. Heck, a lot has changed in the last two. But one thing remains the same in our world - helping raise funds for charity with Dominic as our leading man.

When Kristine Russell first set us up to do an online auction, we didn't know what to expect. Then the donations started pouring in. Everyone wanted to be a part of it.

I won't lie, it does not have the same oomph it once did. Dominic has, indeed, faded from many people's memories. New stories have taken his place. And that's OK. For us, of course, it simply means we have to work harder to make the auction work every year. We have to get out there and share his story, and ask new people to help out.

At times, we just don't have the energy. We've got a lot going on, with a kid in kindergarten, day jobs, friends, and all the rest. But we are still Dominic's parents and things like this are how we parent him now that he's gone. It means a lot that those who still participate want to help the Alberta Children's Hospital as much as we do.

This year's auction did get a bit of a boost. Our amazing friend Krista helped out behind the scenes, contacting new potential donors, and helping get things together. A lot of donors who were simply unable to give during the pandemic got back on the list. Others upped their donations.

And now the second stage of the auction begins. This week I'm writing item descriptions, finalizing donations, picking things up, taking photos and setting the stage for what we hope will be a successful fundraiser.

The biggest thing I need now is your help. Whether you've donated or not, whether you plan on bidding for items or not, I really need you to go on to the #Dominicstrong Facebook group, invite people to it, and when you see posts about the auction, share the heck out of them on every social media platform and email address you've got.

There is never a shortage of great items to bid on, but there does tend to be a shortage of people bidding for them. This is partly algorithm-based, but it's also an issue of not enough folks knowing about the auction. The more bidders, the more the auction raises! And every penny counts.

Don't worry, it's not as though you won't win the items you want. There are plenty to go around! And you'll see this year we have duplicates of some items, meaning each of the top two bidders will win!

It all gets started Friday, Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. Look on the group all week as I'll be posting items every day for previewing. And definitely set your clocks for 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, since the auction wraps up at 5 p.m. that day. Last-minute bidding can be intense.

Thursday, 1 September 2022

What can you do?

 

This used to be a weekend I looked forward to.

The Labour Day long weekend promised campfires, time with friends, relaxing and enjoying the last vestiges of summer.

One less day of work, one long day watching football.

Some of those things still happen, but since Dominic died on Sept. 3, 2015, every bit of joy is sucked away by the knowledge we'll never see him again.

Seven years ago today, while on his wish trip to Florida, we awoke to Dom's oxygen levels crashing. The ambulance didn't make it to the children's hospital in Orlando because he was turning blue. Trish doing a blood draw from his line because the staff at the hospital we diverted to didn't know how. A second ambulance finally getting us somewhere useful. A week later pushing an empty stroller through the airport and holding him the only way we could - in an urn.

Of course September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. As if he knew dying then would have extra impact. You were smarter than your two years, no doubt about that buddy.

For the second year in a row the City of Medicine Hat has proclaimed the month officially. We won't be lighting the teepee gold because, frankly, that costs money, and other charities seem happy to pay it (my contact with Kids Cancer Care tells me Medicine Hat is the only place she's heard of where charities have to pay for lighting a major landmark).

It's a nice gesture nonetheless, and we appreciate it. And there are other ways to show your support.

Consider "going gold" for childhood cancer awareness. Change your profile picture on social media to something symbolic, or like me, add a ribbon to it. I don't ever plan to change my profile picture from the one of Dominic and I, so adding a frame works best.

I'd be remiss not to suggest helping out our charity efforts. Whether it's a donation through my Extra Life page (www.extra-life.org/participant/sean) or Trish's (www.extra-life.org/participant/trish), every penny goes to the Alberta Children's Hospital. Our online auction efforts are coming along well, but many folks have not responded to the messages I've sent them. The auction takes place Sept. 30-Oct. 2 on the Dominicstrong Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/dominicstrong). And of course our 25-hour Extra Life gaming marathon happens Nov. 5-6 at the Medicine Hat Lodge.

And then there's the really easy things. Like sharing this blog post, or one of the many videos made about Dominic (I'm still partial to the one from Extra Life). Or going back and reading some of the blog and remembering what childhood cancer does.

Every year an average of 190 kids in Alberta are diagnosed with cancer. Of those, 30 will die. We've got to keep striving for ways to stop it.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Socks rock: Superhero Night 2022


After three long years, it was great to get back to Athletic Park for Superhero Night with the Medicine Hat Mavericks.

It was far more important than we realized.

Reminders of why we do what we do, and just how much support Dominic still has in our community were abundant Thursday night in Medicine Hat. From the first pitch to an extra 10 cents from a little girl, we saw loud and clear why we need to keep helping more kids in need.

Three days before the game, we didn't even have a person picked to throw out the first pitch. We'd found a kid undergoing cancer treatment who would have been great, but alas, they had chemotherapy treatment that day. So we put out the call and immediately heard back from some familiar faces - notably Kallum, a cancer survivor who was diagnosed around the same time as Dominic.


Kallum, as his mom notes, has always been a kind soul. I think going through what these kids do makes them more thoughtful and empathetic. And now with his sister Abbi spending time in the Alberta Children's Hospital with complex regional pain syndrome, he was throwing for her, too. Families like theirs are battle-tested, to be sure, but we feel terrible they're having to cope with something so difficult again. 

The Mavericks threw a few curveballs our way for the game. An hour before Kallum's pitch, we were informed that Katelyn - Miss Teen Personality Western Canada 2022 - was also going to throw a first pitch. First reaction? Not pleased. Then we met her.

Turns out Katelyn does work for the Alberta Children's as well, as she goes there regularly for her own medical issues. So really, she's a perfect ambassador and perhaps fated to have met us at some point.

Three years ago, the plan was to continue the tradition of having a special jersey for players to wear during the game, and sell them to fans with the proceeds to charity. But times changed, and the team decided to go with special socks instead. Well, once we got the word out to #Dominicstrong, there was no stopping the support. For those who couldn't make it, I offered to buy socks for them. I wound up with 39 pairs of socks!

We're not yet sure how much the team raised for us yet, but there was one other pair of socks which were important, and they went to a player from the opposing team. Weyburn's Cooper Walbaum just finished his own chemotherapy, another superhero like Kallum and Dominic in his own right. One thing he did to help cope with his cancer treatment was have dozens and dozens of pairs of - would you know - special socks.

Our team manned the tables, Under the Stars came with a horde of superhero characters who roamed the stands, and the players looked great with their knee-high socks - which I believe you can still purchase if you want.

Another small moment we'll remember happened near the end of the game. Two girls and their dad came up to the table to make a donation. After dad put in a bill, one of the little girls fished through her purse and found what she could - a dime. As they say, every penny counts.

We're going full throttle now with the online auction Sept. 30-Oct. 2, and the 25-hour game day at Medicine Hat Lodge Nov. 5-6. Thanks to everyone who made Superhero Night a success.




Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Here's the plan

 

Photos of Dominic which we had on his hospital room window so that everyone knew it was his room

Normally by this time of year we've already had the Superhero Night game, already started asking for donations for the online auction, already got plans in the works for the 25-hour charity game day.

So we're a bit late. But late is better than never, right?

Truth is, life is pretty good for us. We're enjoying the summer, have great friends, happy at our jobs, and love our little family. Of course we wonder what it would be like with Dominic, but dwelling on that would be counterproductive.

So on to more good news! Let's start with the Medicine Hat Mavericks.

Superhero Night - Aug. 4


Before the pandemic started we had plans on doing a Superhero Night jersey with a Spider-Man theme for the game in 2020. Needless to say those got scrapped, and two years later the way the team does special nights has changed a bit too.

Gone are the jerseys, which were pretty expensive and also tough to get shipped from overseas in time during the current global economic climate. Instead, the team is doing special socks - far more affordable, easier to get in bulk but still a fun memento from the night.

The rest of the fun will be the same. Special music, games, and good times at the ballpark. Superhero Night is set for Thursday, Aug. 4 at Athletic Park, with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch. It's going to be a great night.

Please, tell your friends. Heck, tell your enemies! Let's fill the park.

Online auction - Sept. 30-Oct. 2

The online auction will take place Sept. 30-Oct. 2 this year, as always managed through our Facebook group (#Dominicstrong). If you know someone who might be interested in bidding, add them to the group please! We will start asking for donations in August.

If you run a business or know someone at a business who might want to donate an item, please contact us! This auction routinely gets 100-plus items, and our rule has always been if you donated last year, we're going to ask again this year.

Based on how late we are starting things I do expect a much smaller auction this year, and that's just fine. Every penny helps.

Extra Life game day - Nov. 5-6

Well it's official: We are doing a public 25-hour game day again for the first time in four years.

The Medicine Hat Lodge is hosting us in one of their big upstairs ballrooms, just like our first year. It'll kick off at 8 a.m. Nov. 5 and we'll play games and try to raise money for the Alberta Children's Hospital until 8 a.m. on Nov. 6.

Want to join us for the full 25 hours? You'll want to get in touch with us so that we can plan out some dedicated space for you, and make sure you've got a fundraising page set up through Extra Life. Only want to drop in for a few hours? That will work too! There will be plenty of games for all to play, and likely a few special silent auction items which we're going to hold over from the main online auction.

If anyone wants to help plan this event definitely let us know.

Extra Life update

In case you're not following along on our Facebook group, at the end of the previous blog post in April I mentioned that I was going to compete in Extra Life United. It wound up that I won the Carcassone tournament, worth US$4,000 to the hospital! It was truly a marathon and I've asked them politely to do it differently next time - the board game tournaments were definitely about attrition, rather than skill, which made them much different than the video game side of the event.

Unfortunately, the dates for Extra Life United 2023 are right at the busiest part of tax season for Trish, so we don't know when we'll be seeing our friends in that community next.


Well that's it for this post. Look for a recap of Superhero Night next week, and regular updates leading up to both the online auction and game day. This is the 10th year anniversary of Dominic's cancer diagnosis, so it's both special and especially tough. Thank you for keeping Dominic in your heart.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

More like her brother

They both love pancakes...

"Why couldn't you be more like your brother?"

File that away as something my sisters never had to hear growing up. But we've definitely thought them at times about our daughter.

It's not fair, of course, to compare the two. Dominic was so happy-go-lucky, and that attitude served him well when the leukemia prognosis came a month before his first birthday. He had the benefit of not knowing life was different, that people aren't stuck in hospital rooms for months on end because they have no immune system, or that pokes and prods are not common.

A little bit of pain? I had a foot injury the other week and rated it a 7/10 on what I'd experienced. It probably wasn't a 2/10 for a cancer patient.

When Samantha fell headfirst into the corner of a wall the other day, blood flowing freely, I figured the waterworks might never stop.

Of course, with my aversion to blood and needles (I famously had a code blue called on ME at the children's hospital one fine morning due to fainting), I could've been in as much trouble as she was.

But no: She held the gauze I'd applied to her forehead tight while I took a second to lay on the floor, gather myself, and find a large enough bandage.

She is more like her brother than we give her credit for sometimes. Loves putting on a show, laughing, and showing love. Can entertain herself on long car rides or at home when nobody's around to play with. Loves pancakes.

Samantha will also tell you her brother is dead matter-of-factly, which she definitely gets from her parents.

We took her mini-golfing last week and I hope there are more opportunities to participate in things in her brother's memory. That's where I'm going with today's post.

A big anniversary

It's been 10 years since Dominic was admitted to hospital with those red bumps all over his head. We started participating in Extra Life soon thereafter, and have raised more than $250,000 in his name through the #Dominicstrong team.

The first time we had a public event as part of our 25-hour game day marathon was 2015, just a couple months after he died. We did a couple more but soon found they were a lot of stress to organize and didn't bring in much extra money for the cause. Businesses were happy to donate but the dollar value we got out of the event didn't match up with what they gave.

The last event was in 2017. Don't get me wrong: it was a lot of fun, but at some point we decided it wasn't worth it.

Well, experiences are worth something too. And so we'd like to do another public event this November. For Dominic. For Samantha too, so she can see what the community means to her brother's legacy. And of course, for all the kids who still need the Alberta Children's Hospital every day.

It was easy not to do it the last two years during the pandemic: Just not safe. But being the 10th anniversary, I hope we can try again.

Can we count on your support? Would you come and play with us for a while? Ask friends and complete strangers alike to donate a couple bucks to the cause? I want to hear from you to know we can do this.

Extra Life United

One last thing: I'm participating in Extra Life United virtually for the third year in a row this week. I'm playing Carcassone: Hunters and Gatherers with money on the line to be won for the Alberta Children's Hospital. Wish me luck! Also, consider a small donation through my participant page to send some encouragement: www.extra-life.org/participant/sean.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Game Day No. 9




Well this isn't what we'd hoped for.

When we first thought about this year's 25-hour Extra Life marathon, we figured things would be back to normal in the world. After all, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic only lasted a year, right?

At the time of last year's marathon in November, our city had a total of eight active COVID-19 cases. We felt safe, and were safe to legally gather with 14 of our best friends and play games to raise money for the Alberta Children's Hospital.

Today, the active case number is 99. And that's a three-month low. Dozens of people in Medicine Hat have died from the disease and provincial restrictions only allow us to have one other household join us for game day.

I won't lie: it's tempting to break the rules. Everyone in our circles is vaccinated but for one key group: The kids. And that's who we do this for. And so we will do what we can within the guidelines.

The situation has been even worse at the children's hospital. Imagine only two people allowed in to see your child. No family visits, no well-wishing friends, nothing. Combine that with major surgeries being cancelled, ones your child needs to live. It's truly horrific.

Last year we did dice rolls for donations. It was a ton of fun, so we're bringing it back! Only this time, a donation of at least $10 to any one of seven people will result in a dice roll potentially affecting any of us. From dancing to the hottest hot sauce you can find, the hijinks will be fantastic and it's all for a good cause.

If you want to see all the fun, we're going to have a post in the #Dominicstrong Facebook group where all completed challenges will be shared. I'm also going to live-stream parts of the day either on my Twitch channel or Facebook Live.

This will be our ninth year participating in Extra Life game day. Over that time, #Dominicstrong team members have raised nearly $250,000 for the hospital.

We aren't done. The Spanish Flu actually lasted two years. So much for learning from history! We'll all come out the other side and yes, the 10th-year #Dominicstrong party is going to be a big one.

If you'd like to make a donation prior to game day, I encourage you to visit Trish's page (http://www.extra-life.org/participant/trish)- she'd like to crack the $1,000 mark this year, and I'd like to see her get more than $2,500.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Auction weekend


It's definitely just my anxiety, but it feels today like everything is coming undone.

The annual online auction, having raised more than $50,000 since it began, takes place again this weekend. We've got more than 100 items including some truly unexpected, spectacular pieces. You can access it all here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.411614883661291. Bidding starts Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. MST and ends Sunday, Sept. 26 at 5 p.m.

Word art on mugs? Check. Word art on incredible wood clock? Yes. Everything from gift cards to full birthday parties and one-of-a-kind memorabilia? Of course.

But it's easy to sink into the negatives. Are enough people aware of the auction? The last blog post I wrote here, about the city of Medicine Hat proclaiming September as childhood cancer month, has been read by fewer than 100 people.

I'm afraid that I'm not doing a good enough job for Dominic, having focused on all the massive changes in my life these past two years instead. On one hand I know that interest in him is bound to diminish over time as people's memories of his life fade. But a big part of me refuses to accept it.

We resist change. Ask someone to do their job differently tomorrow and you'll be met with a range of emotions from anger to confusion and back again. And yet, when you're a hospital parent, you roll with it. You have no other choice.

Kids in children's hospitals right now are facing significant changes over which they have no control. They're being told they can't get surgeries and procedures done. We need to do better for these kids. The #Dominicstrong auction is a small way towards that. We're not going to change the world with another $8,100 (the total we raised last year). But every penny helps.

You were going to spend the $50 at Wal Mart anyhow. So buy one of the three gift cards in the auction and add $5 out of goodwill.

You were going to have your kids' birthday party at the local gymnastics club anyhow. So spend that money in the auction, not looking for a discount, because it goes to a good cause and the club donated it.

See an item with few bids? Think of someone you know who might want it, then contact them, tell them about the auction, and get them to bid it up.

It's not complicated. Charity isn't about you saving a buck. It's about you doing good.

Please, come together and let's do some good.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Their month



"Death doesn't discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes

And we keep living anyway

We rise and we fall and we break

And we make our mistakes

And if there's a reason I'm still alive

When everyone who loves me has died

I'm willing to wait for it (Wait for it)

I'm willing to wait for it"

- Hamilton


Cancer takes, and takes, and takes.

And we keep living anyway.

We control what we can, and in ways large and small we fight back.

Whether it's by persisting, or sharing our stories; pushing science forward, advocating, or giving a smile to a bald stranger in line at the supermarket.

Two months ago, Tara Brown from Kid's Cancer Care Alberta reached out to ask if I could do her a favour: Request that the City of Medicine Hat officially proclaim September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Every little bit of awareness helps, so I sent in the form and, lo and behold, it was signed and made official a mere four days later.

The statistics are stark: every year, an average of 190 kids in Alberta are diagnosed with cancer. Thirty die from it, and three-quarters of the survivors live with permanent side effects ranging from cognitive to fertility problems.

Numbers don't tell the whole story, of course. For every child affected, so too are their siblings, parents, extended family and friends. From financial hardships to relationship trauma, cancer does more damage to more people than you'd first expect.

What happens when your child suddenly needs to spend months on end in a hospital receiving treatment? One parent has to stay with them, so if they had a job, poof... it's gone.

One parent taking care of a child means any other kids often feel jealousy because they're not getting the same attention. Even if they do understand why, it's a massive, upsetting change.

Parents of kids with cancer have higher rates of divorce because of the stresses involved. Extended families can come together, but the opposite can also happen.

I remember one time in hospital where a patient in the room next to us was not doing well. They'd scream and yell and hit their parents and hospital staff, wishing they were dead instead of having to endure the chemotherapy. It was horrifying; we felt lucky that Dominic didn't truly know how bad his situation was. When you're older and know what cancer is, it's a lot scarier to then have it.

It's a little thing the city can do to recognize the many children in our community who have and continue to fight cancer. But it means something to those kids and those families to know that they are seen, that they are noticed and honoured.

There are other things we can do this month. Maybe you could wear something coloured gold, the colour representing childhood cancer. The Terry Fox Run happens in September (Sept. 19 is the main run; Sept. 29 they have a school run as well). And of course we're holding our annual #Dominicstrong online auction Sept. 24-26 via our Facebook page.

Because it's the month Dominic died, September is particularly tough for us. But we hope this proclamation gives a little boost to childhood cancer awareness.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Forging ahead

Today, Dominic's sister will go to school for the first time.

She'll meet her teacher, see the room, and get a taste of what to expect. And I can't help but think - what would his experience be like if he were still here?

Six years ago we were getting on the plane to Florida for what would become his final trip. Had a miracle occurred and he'd somehow beat leukemia for good, he'd have still faced so many challenges: a stroke had left half his body debilitated, chemotherapy has devastating long-term effects, and that's to say nothing of what mental consequences there are to someone who's been put through so much.

We always thought it would be a blessing that he was so young when it happened, thinking he wouldn't remember the worst parts and that his resiliency would be incredible.

Dom would be eight years old were he alive today and headed into Grade 3. I imagine he'd be involved with the local adaptive sport association, or maybe Special Olympics, and loving the chance to meet new friends.

How would COVID affect his situation? Hard to say, but kids with cancer tend to have long-term autoimmune problems. We'd have to be extra careful. 

With those what-if scenarios in our head, it isn't easy sending his sister to school. We're lucky her day home shares our perspective on safety, but with COVID cases in our city at an all-time high our anxiety is peaking as well.

We are trying to forge ahead. Day home has been great for her and so should school.

The push forward includes our charity efforts. We haven't done much this year but owe it to Dominic and the children's hospital, and so the #Dominicstrong online auction will take place Sept. 24-26 via the Facebook group of the same name.

Last year we debated not doing it at all but somehow raised $8,001. This year's auction will be even smaller and that's fine - every penny helps. We've reached out to all 73 donors from last year's auction and the majority have stepped up again. We've got gift certificates, board games, artwork and so much more!

If you see this post and might be interested in donating something, email donations@dominicstrong.com. And if you just want to help, please join the Facebook group and share the heck out of posts like this one so that we get as many bidders as possible for the auction. 

It hasn't been easy, but then again it never was for Dominic once leukemia entered our lexicon. Every little step is still a step forward for him.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Extra Life United 2021

Hi everyone, just wanted to let you know about a charity event I'm participating in this weekend.

Extra Life United is a gaming tournament in which US$250,000 will be doled out to various Children's Miracle Network Hospitals across North America. I'm playing in two games - Among Us and Rocket League - in hopes of winning a bit for the Alberta Children's Hospital where many kids from the Medicine Hat area go for a variety of reasons.

I also have a fundraising page set up at www.extra-life.org/participant/sean at which any donation will get you a lovely tax receipt for next year! Every penny donated goes to the hospital. Extra Life is a part of Children's Miracle Network so their costs are covered elsewhere.

For those on Facebook, I did set up a fundraiser there though I should note that tax receipts generated there are not usable for Canadian tax purposes.

I'll be live-streaming Saturday evening and some of Sunday at twitch.tv/gomerstraw, so feel free to drop by and wish me luck, or send a donation (even $5 helps!).

Side note: If you subscribe to this blog by email, I've been notified that the service will be discontinued as of July 2021. So if you don't already, go follow our #Dominicstrong Facebook Group or my Twitter account to make sure you don't miss any future posts.

Monday, 2 November 2020

Planning a surprisingly normal 24-hour game day


Normal is whatever you make of it, and this year has certainly seen a lot of people inventing new normals for themselves.

When it comes to our annual charity gaming event, however, things are pretty much status quo compared to recent years.

We've been busy behind the scenes planning our Extra Life 24-hour game day, the culmination of our annual efforts towards helping the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation.

Thanks to low COVID-19 case numbers in Medicine Hat (eight active cases as of Monday in a city of 65,000), we've made the decision to have our closest friends over starting at 8 a.m. (Mountain time) on Saturday, Nov. 7. It's a list of 14 people, and they've been our social cohorts since the pandemic began in March so we're confident we're being safe. If any one of us becomes symptomatic this week they'll need a negative COVID test in order to be here.

Fundraising is serious business, but it's also a lot of fun! Back in August we earned a 20-sided die from Extra Life and we are putting it to use for our game day.


Here's how it works: You go to one of our team member's fundraising pages during game day, choose an incentive and we'll roll the die. What happens then? Depends what's rolled. See the document here for the wide array of possibilities! I actually made my own hot sauce this year for No. 6.

For US$5 you can get one person of your choice to do what the die roll dictates. Want us all to do it? That's US$50. Want to pick the thing one person does? That's US$25. And if you want to pick something from the list for us all to do, ante up US$100.

We will be live-streaming at least half of the day's activities, which will include lots of board games, video games and even axe throwing at SixOneSix Entertainment.

There are also other members of the #Dominicstrong team who will do their own thing! We encourage you to check them all out by visiting the team page at https://www.extra-life.org/team/dominicstrong. It all goes to the same wonderful place.

And of course if you want to join our team virtually, there's still lots of time! Feel free to click that team link and sign up yourself.

We do it in memory of Dominic, but also for all the kids in hospital and all of those who benefit from it. So many kids from our community in Medicine Hat get help there and this is one way we can give back.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Birthday thanks

 


Happy birthday Dominic. You would've been eight.


Today's birthday falls on the same day as Thanksgiving here in Canada. Our family all wanted us to come join them but we needed a weekend without travel, or surprise parties, or an online auction.


We spent some time doing normal things. We went on some nice, long walks. We cooked the giant spaghetti squash we grew in the garden this summer and had turkey and buns and carrots with our best friends (who were in a similar boat as we were). We played games and danced and hung out at your park.


We call it your park because it's where your memorial bench is, but it's really just another city park. Samantha can pretty much traverse the whole thing blindfolded, and she knows it's Dominic's park. She knows you're dead but keeps trying to tell me you'll get better and come home. Oh how I wish.


For the past two months she kept seeing people come to the door with gifts, then to pick up the gifts. An entire room in the house was devoted to the online auction, known in the house as Dominic's Auction. So all these things were basically for him.


We raised $8,001 through the auction, and everything's been picked up and accounted for. We've even got some donations promised for next year, which is wonderful. Every penny got donated to the Alberta Children's Hospital through our Extra Life pages, and as usual we're not done fundraising yet. Our 24-hour gaming marathon will happen Nov. 7-8, and you can expect us to check in on the #Dominicstrong Facebook group periodically.


We are thankful for everyone who donated and took part in the auction, but moreso to everyone who helps keep his memory alive. Whether that's by adding a gold ribbon to their social media profile during September (childhood cancer month), reading the odd blog post here, or donating in his memory, it's all appreciated. To all of you, a big thumbs-up.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Community makes the auction

 

When we announced the online auction would take place for the sixth year in a row, we figured it would wind up roughly half the size as the previous ones.


Are we ever glad to be wrong.


In the span of five-and-a-half weeks, we've racked up 107 items for the #Dominicstrong auction benefitting the Alberta Children's Hospital via Extra Life. Time and time again we've been amazed at the generosity of our community.


A friend from an online community we belong to said she'd give a piece of art, then added a foosball table, toy set and air hockey. Another I knew from when she coached and I reported came through with a massive item including a skateboard with two thumbs-up's on it. So many of the longtime contributors to the auction not only said yes again, but in some cases went above and beyond what they usually give.


And that's no slag on anyone who said no. No is what we expected to hear, and for good reason. "Keep us on the asking list for next year," said a few, realizing they simply can't afford handouts right now but still want to support the cause. We'd decided prior to the auction that we will re-ask anyone from 2019 in 2021 anyhow.


A couple we didn't initially ask were the Medicine Hat College Rattlers and Medicine Hat Mavericks. With sports seasons completely cancelled, we just didn't think they'd be in a position to offer anything. But alas, when we did ask, they figured something out.


This year's auction has a bit of everything. From masks to games, jewellery to axe throwing, food and golf, the hope is lots of you see something you like and bid on it. Most important, don't keep the auction to yourself! The more bidders we get, the more money we raise for the hospital. There's no chance we'll meet the $10,000 mark we have the past few years, but every penny helps.


It's all a great reminder that our community is strong, and generous. In the six years it has run, the total amount donated through the auction is $48,116. It's a lot of work but clearly worth it - it's how we parent our son who's not here anymore.


How do you share the auction? This blog post is a good place to start. So, too is the story Chris Brown put together for CHAT News (https://chatnewstoday.ca/2020/09/22/dominicstrong-auction-keeps-dominic-rooneys-legacy-alive). As for direct links, here's the one to the auction album itself (https://www.facebook.com/media/set?set=oa.242004390576370&type=3), though keep in mind that in order to bid you have to actually join the group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/dominicstrong) first.



We do have one extra surprise in store - whoever winds up buying the most auction items will get a special custom-made bag with Natalie Long's word art on it! Bailey Stralia did the bag for us out of the blue, while she was working on some facemasks which are a story on their own: Trish's mom Anne made the masks in Calgary, then Bailey added thumbs-up and hashtag art onto them, then she made pouches with more art to store them in! If that wasn't enough, Eva from St. Albert shipped us ear savers she crocheted for the project.


A lot of things came together for this, and it was made even tougher in the last week when Trish, Samantha and I all came down sick. We had to be tested for COVID but fortunately got the news Thursday night that we're all negative. The auction was never in danger, it's just been a lot of work to get it all up and running!


We hope you have fun, and remember that bidding ends Sunday at 5 p.m. Mountain time.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Five years




The world is different but the pain is the same.


As other parents share pictures of their youngsters going to school again, we took our daughter to Dominic's memorial bench, tied five orange balloons to it, then played at the park. Orange is the colour representing leukemia. We'd have had some gold ones for childhood cancer awareness but alas, they were sold out.


It's been five years since our son took his last breath, since he got those two hours at Disney World, then crashed the next day. Since the hospital in Orlando organized for Mickey Mouse to come visit him, but had to cancel because it was too late.


I think of all the support that came in, from messages on the blog to the lady at the airport who helped with the empty stroller we were pushing on our way home with his ashes.


But most of all I remember his laugh, his thumbs-up, his smile. He'd be such a good brother to our daughter, likely getting in trouble for setting her straight once in a while but also looking out for her.


He can be whatever we want him to be in our imaginations.


We were so used to his world, where wearing masks was normal and you sanitized your hands every time in to the oncology ward. We embraced the change. Needless to say we were ready for this new normal too.


Charity work is slower this year because there's understandably less money going around. As of writing this, we've got 57 items lined up for the #Dominicstrong online auction Sept. 25-27. That's about half as many as last year but I'm still amazed at that level of response. Hopefully we can sell them all, too. Drop by the #Dominicstrong Facebook group if you're interested.


It's been a crazy year, and this fifth anniversary of his death ought to be more sad than the rest. Anniversaries are certainly tough. But in an odd way it's been a happy day so far, intermingled with moments of anguish. We'll take it.