Sunday, 5 April 2020

Another new normal

(proceeds from this project to a Healthcare Hero Fund through Medicine Hat and District Health Foundation)

You know how people say "I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy?"

Well, in a way, we're all living that nightmare now. It's both worse and not as bad as it sounds.

I chuckle in a perverse sort of way whenever I see someone talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them into finding a new normal. It's the saying medical families the world over have used - us included - and it's nothing to be scared of.

Accepting and eventually embracing your new circumstances is an important part of surviving something like cancer, a job loss, a death, or being stuck in your house for weeks on end.

Dominic showed us how it's done. After the chemotherapy destroyed his immune system (and, we had hoped, all the cancer cells with it), he could've died from the common cold. So every time nurses came in or out of his room, they had to wear special masks and gloves. The room was constantly being wiped down with medical-grade wipes, which we were warned could actually cause cancer themselves until the cleaning agent in them dried. So you had to wear gloves just to use the wipes.

As a cancer patient, you get used to sanitizing your hands every time you walk down the hallway to the oncology clinic. You know how to take off a pair of plastic gloves so that you don't touch the outside of the gloves. You're scared of door handles, cringe at the thought of handling money and have no problem telling people with any sign of illness to stay the heck away from you.

Seeing everyone else forced to learn these habits is of course sad, but now everybody knows what being immune-suppressed is like. We're all compromised against this new disease. We all have to act like it could kill us, because you don't really know how you'll fare until you've got it. Even if the mortality rate is three per cent, would you seriously play Russian roulette with a 33-chamber gun knowing one of those chambers has a bullet in it?

There are positives to being stuck in isolation. You get creative. I'll never forget seeing Dom sitting in his hospital crib with an entire bag of cheezies strewn around him. You find different ways of keeping in touch: the iPad Dominic was given by the hospital allowed easy FaceTime calls with family, and now our daughter uses it.

We think often about how this situation must be for those in the actual oncology department. Resources are being diverted in our health care system to fight the pandemic, and cancer patients are among those who could be sacrificed as a result. If there's a shortage of masks or gloves, will the cancer units of the world have to do without for a while? How many people will die because their surgeries, or their safety were compromised because a handful of people couldn't be bothered to self-isolate and spread this new disease?

We've been doing our part, staying at home, telling our 3-year-old the #Dominicstrong park has been closed for the past month. We've been lucky because both Trish and I have been able to work from home.

We haven't done any fundraising yet this year. Especially now, with so many people out of work, it doesn't feel right asking for money for a charity. But given all the help the health care system needs, I'd be remiss not to mention what's going on this week online.

We weren't going to Extra Life United in Florida this year. Then the pandemic happened, and it's... NOT CANCELLED. In fact, it's morphed into an online-only experience, free to sign up, with the original US$150,000 still able to be won for hospitals across North America. So even though I'll have to do it around my work schedule, I've signed up to play.

If you want or have the means, you can sponsor me in my efforts to win a few bucks for the Alberta Children's Hospital. This is separate from the link I give the rest of the year for my main Extra Life page: it's a special Extra Life United page.

Now, more than ever, we need the have's of the world to support the have-not's. Let's become a better community.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

As old as he'll ever be

Today, our daughter hits a special milestone.

Today, she turns two years and 326 days.

That's how old Dominic was when he took his last breath.

When he died, he'd never said more than a couple words, "mom" being his favourite. A stroke took his speech and much of his mobility soon after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He was also gentle, full of love and never seemed to complain no matter what awful things were happening to him. His thumbs-up became the signature for our #Dominicstrong fundraising for a reason.

By contrast, Samantha sings and dances, tells us she loves us and also throws epic temper tantrums when told she can't have what she wants.

She sees photos of him and we tell her that's her brother, but she's far more excited about going to hang out with the girl who's near her age at her day home. That's someone tangible. She'll never hug her brother or sit with him on Santa's lap or have a snowball fight with him.

And while he's stuck at two, she'll turn three next month and continue reaching milestones that never seemed possible for him.

He had a growth chart with only a few records marked on it. Samantha was given a similar one but I decided to mark her height on his chart instead, so that she'd always see his name there too and maybe start asking about it.

We hung it on the back of her door, but she's pulled it down so many times it was sitting crumpled in a spare room - a room that would've been his by now.

Yesterday I fixed it back on her door, had her stand beside it and we took a couple photos. Unsurprisingly she's far ahead of him at this age - cancer and chemotherapy do a number on kids' growth.

We're proud of her, but it feels like he's getting further and further away. The memory of him is frozen, and every winter a new layer of ice gets added around him. It's just a little bit harder to remember his face, or what his laugh sounded like, or how he walked with that awkward gait - another side effect of the stroke.

Today she's an age he was for the last time. Now he's the baby brother, not the older one.

She'll be a great big sister. She'll learn his story, and we'll continue to raise money in his memory. But what will that look like? There is so much uncertainty in our lives right now, we're not honestly sure.

I know this blog has been almost non-existent in the past year. Aside from our charity events, there's not much to say. Thanks to those of you who continue to follow his story and support us.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Hey there (game day is upon us)

Hey there!

We've pledged to play games to help heal kids through Extra Life, and are embarking on a 25-hour gaming marathon starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow (Nov. 2)!
Every penny raised through our Extra Life pages goes to the Alberta Children's Hospital, where Dominic spent most of his two years.
You're getting this message because you've followed Dominic's story. Maybe it was when he was still in the hospital. Maybe it was in the days after he died in 2015. Or maybe you're seeing this blog for the first time. Either way, thank you so much for your support. It means a lot.
We set our goals lower this year because we simply don't have the same time or energy to devote to charity work as we once did. There are a number of factors but our two-year-old daughter is absolutely priority No. 1. We look at fundraising as our way of parenting Dominic, even though he's no longer physically here.
That said, over the years Sean's Extra Life page alone has raised more than US$90,000. And the #Dominicstrong team there is up over US$125,000. We've done three Superhero Night games with the Medicine Hat Mavericks, five mini-golf tournaments with Hooplas, and this year's online auction through our Facebook page made another $9,400.


New to Extra Life this year is an incentives counter. What I (Sean) won't do for a donation...
  • $10: Wear a panda onesie for one hour of the marathon.
  • $50: Play a game of your choice for one hour.
  • $1,337: Shave off my goatee.
  • ??: You come up with something and I'll consider it. So long as it's reasonable, I'm up for just about anything. How about Trish's nails (see the top of this post), eh?


Sean is currently at US$11,489 raised this year. But let's go further.
  • US$11,500: Eat a piece of chicken covered in a hot sauce that's 25 times hotter than a jalepeno.
  • US$12,000: Eat another piece of chicken but with The Last Dab, a hot sauce that's 400 times hotter than a jalepeno.
All donations are collected securely by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and are tax deductible. Thank you!

Friday, 27 September 2019

Auction No. 5

When our friend Kristine first started an online auction four years ago to help with our Extra Life efforts, we were honoured, and humbled. What a wonderful idea - totally online bidding, no need for pants, every penny raised to the hospital.

It finished off that year with $7,900 raised, and pushed our Extra Life total past US$46,000 for the year, all in Dominic's name. Kristine, her whole family and Trish all shaved their heads. I, having no hair left, waxed my back. Good times!

And then the question became - how do we follow that up?

The answer, of course, is that you can't. The bulk of that year's fundraising happened in the wake of our son's death. But what you can do is continue on with things like the auction, like the 25-hour gaming marathon, and still have incredible impact.

And yet, somehow, the auction itself actually got bigger.

In 2016 it raised $10,000. The number grew to $10,921 in 2017. With a new daughter to care for and far less free time, we still managed $9,877 in bids last year, even though the amount of traffic on the auction went down significantly.

This year we sort of admitted defeat in that we don't have the resources between the two of us to do our day jobs, raise a now-2-year-old, and solicit dozens of new businesses (in addition to the ones who we automatically contact as repeat donors). We knew the auction would be smaller and it is, with 116 items to last year's 132, and a total value of the minimum bids at $4,740 compared to $6,705 in 2018. We definitely don't have time to organize a public game day, though we'll do our own in private again Nov. 2-3.

But I will say, thanks to social media we are seeing more traffic and interest on the auction items ahead of today's (Friday, Sept. 27) auction starting at 5 p.m. Mountain time. So that is really encouraging. If we can double every minimum bid, $10,000 is still a goal worth shooting for!

There are some amazing items again. From the two sets of crokinole discs we originally had made for Extra Life United, to tickets from the Esplanade to each of their three Classic Albums Live concerts, to beautiful handmade items, gift cards to stores big and small, and of course some special word art mugs, the variety is kind of mind-blowing.

It's all thanks to our community, both here and abroad. I know a few folks from the U.S. who we met because of Extra Life will be bidding, and our donations include items from Calgary as always.

What really surprises us are the new donations from people who we never reached out to and never heard from before. The fact Dominic's story has inspired them to give means so much. One woman who wants to remain anonymous hand-made a dozen outfits for a doll she had, which literally took months, and has now donated the lot of it including the doll. When I told a gaming company we weren't sure if having the same game in the auction year after year was a good idea, they donated two other games instead. And when one friend's company declined to donate anything, she went and bought things from her own store and donated anyhow.

Stories like these remind us how good people are. And the number of families we know who've needed to use the Alberta Children's Hospital past or present only gets bigger. We want to help the hospital continue to give them the best care possible, just as they did when we needed it.

Go check out the auction now. It runs until 5 p.m. Sunday. You've got to be a member of the Facebook group in order to bid, and make sure to read the auction rules in full before you participate! It should be a great weekend.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Mini golf, major impact

I've been to enough charity golf tournaments to know that it's all about getting lots of companies together to raise big money.
But we've found you can do great things with smaller numbers too. And the impact can be just as worthy.
When our friend Amber Dewar approached us after Dominic's death wanting to do a fundraiser through Hooplas Family Entertainment Centre - which her family owns - we were honoured. But I'm not sure we thought it would be bigger the fifth time out than that first, incredibly emotional September day.
But there we were Sunday as four- or even five-person teams filled all 18 holes in Dom's memory, raising money for the Alberta Children's Hospital via Extra Life.
Extra Life, of course, is a gaming charity. Most people associate it with video or board games, but mini golf is a game too, gosh darnit! And a fun one that pretty much anybody can play.
In its original incarnation the day at Hooplas was just that - a day during which a portion of every green fee went to the cause. A couple years ago that changed to a tournament, with prizes for best team score and everything.
As an outdoor course, the weather has had a big impact on the event. Poor weather for a couple years kept folks from coming out, and we even moved the date to be earlier last year in hopes we'd get more people.
Well, it was 32 degrees Celsius out there Sunday, and the numbers show it.
We are proud to announce that this year's #Dominicstrong Charity Mini Golf Tournament raised $1,653! With Schwab and Co. Chartered Accountants sponsoring and Skinny's Smoke House BBQ providing dinner for all 75 of us, it was a massive success.
From all the folks proudly wearing their #Dominicstrong shirts to the team that made their own special Golf for the Gold shirts, it was a good-looking group. We had special holes forcing some to use marshmallows for a hole, or playing while blindfolded, and while I can't speak for everyone, I sure had a lot of fun! Even if Trish beat me.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Four years

The memories aren't the same, but the pain certainly is.

Four years ago today we watched as Dominic took his final breath. Trish held his hand to keep it from going cold. We made the worst phone calls imaginable to family and friends, crying along with them.

I vaguely remember driving the rental van to a random hotel we were to stay at until his ashes were ready to come home. Then spending the rest of the day lying on hotel beds, reading hundreds of messages and seeing thousands of dollars get donated through my Extra Life page as per our request on that day's blog.

All week we've been re-sharing the blog entries from that fateful wish trip. We read them ourselves at this time every year, and any time we think of him. I'm not usually a big fan of forcing it on anybody, but sometimes you need the support.

People do move on, but we now have two kids - one of them's just not here physically. Samantha's the age he was when he died, and has started to recognize him in photos. There's daddy, mommy... and Dominic. She doesn't know why Dominic is in those photos, but she does know he's important enough to be named.

He's still everywhere to us. We look out behind our house and there's his bench. Anytime someone gives a thumbs up, I think of him. A random photo of someone else's sick kid, with one of the animal stickers for their NG tube - Dominic had those. The Darth Vader pajamas of his now fit her, and she's started to treat his light sabre/baton as a weapon, rather than the vacuum she originally thought it was.

But the story I tell when asking for donations isn't as overwhelming, and certainly more succinct than it used to be. Now it's simply "we do this in memory of our son." You might get a "he died during his wish trip" if I'm being particularly verbose.

And you know, the people who donated before, they still donate. Because it is a good cause. Because they're good people. And because maybe, just maybe, they remember him too. Selfishly, I sometimes think remembering him means more than the donations themselves.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It's the most important month of our year - the #Dominicstrong mini-golf tournament is Sept. 15 at Hooplas (register now at and the online auction through our Facebook group is Sept. 27-29.

Thank you for paying attention and giving Dominic a bit of your time.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Another heroic night

Once again, Superhero Night was a blast.

As always, the star of the game threw the first pitch. Then the Medicine Hat Mavericks grabbed an early lead wearing their Captain America-inspired jerseys, eventually earning a 15-5 win over what we dubbed as Team Hydra, the Moose Jaw Miller Express.

This year's first pitch was thrown by someone Dominic knew. We met Cahleb and his mom Laura because he and Dom were a perfect match for a play date. While Dom had a stroke in addition to his cancer that affected his mobility, Cahleb was born blind, plus he's got a rare condition called congenital pan-hypopituitarism that's life-threatening and requires regular medication and therapy.

Now five years old, Cahleb has a younger brother Dhylan and the two of them are an absolute blast. Cahleb doesn't go to the Alberta Children's Hospital a lot, but their role in his care is important anyhow. As Laura tells it, they've helped teach the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital how to deal with his condition and how best to treat him.

As soon as they got to the ball park, Cahleb got to meet members of the 501st Legion (charity volunteers who cosplay as stormtroopers and other villains of the Star Wars universe). These three have been at all three Superhero Night events and were amazing as always, even saving our #Dominicstrong booth with oodles of duct tape!

They knew what to do, bending down so Cahleb could touch their armour and helmets (because that's how he sees). Then it was time to go throw the first pitch, which was amazing to watch. The crowd really delivered with applause when told he'd only know they were there if he could hear them.

The players stepped up too, embracing their roles as superheroes by adding masks prior to the game starting. I'd like to note the Mavericks have never so much as trailed on the scoreboard during any of the three Superhero Night games, and they've won all of them.

As for the rest of the night, thanks to our friends Chris, Starr, James, Krista and Brandon and our family who were visiting from Ontario, we were able to see more of the game than ever before! But I will say, it wasn't a good night to be sitting still - thunderstorms were in the area, a cold wind was blowing and attendance was not what it usually is. I don't blame people for staying away - it wasn't a nice night to be outdoors. We've been lucky the past two years with lots of sun.

Team staff did a great job, bringing in Under the Stars performers dressed as Batman, Joker and the Incredibles. We were honoured to receive a cheque for $1,500 on behalf of the Alberta Children's Hospital, plus a bit more cash donated at our table.

A reminder that if you're interested in buying one of the game-worn jerseys, just call the Mavericks at 403-580-5811. They cost CDN$105 including tax.

The next month will continue to be busy for us as we get going with the online auction, which will be at the end of September as always. If you or your business are interested in donating something for it, just reach out to either Trish or I! We have a special email for #Dominicstrong, it's

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Superhero Night III

For the third year in a row the Medicine Hat Mavericks baseball team is helping the Alberta Children’s Hospital and promoting our charity efforts by holding Superhero Night next Saturday, July 20.

We are honoured to be able to reveal this year’s special jerseys! After going with a comic book theme last year, this time it’s back to dressing the guys up as if they are the superheroes - which to many kids in the community, they certainly are.

In 2017 the jerseys featured a generic cape on the back. This time, you’ll recognize them as super-soldiers... the design is an homage to Captain America, with a star on the front and stripes. I love the fact they’ve kept the Mavs colours however, lots of red, grey and back.

Want one? They’ll be on sale after the third inning July 20, though you can certainly call the Mavs early (403-580-5811) to reserve one.

I won’t have as much to do with the game this year, as Mavs promotions director Janessa Robinson has stepped up in a big way with exciting ideas. There will be even more characters roaming Athletic Park this year, and fans are encouraged to dress up as superheroes themselves.

Game time July 20 is 7:05 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 17 June 2019


Father's Day has come and gone for another year, and I'm feeling a little melancholy.

It's not because the card I got was from one child who's here and one who's not, though that's not far off.

No, it's more for what we did do this weekend than what we didn't.

When Dominic died, one of the first things we did was go through the scads of toys he had, pick which ones to keep and what to give away to charities.

We probably gave away $1,000 worth of stuff that Christmas, and the funny thing is I've seen some of it as we've gone to various places with Samantha. She spent time as a toddler on a play mat we gave away to a local parent centre, while I've seen other things around and noticed the room immediately seemed dusty.

His old medical supplies got packed up and what hadn't been used yet got redistributed through a parents group. Whenever I see a kid with a tube stuck to their face with a lion or a duck, I think of Dominic.

But his clothes? They got boxed up and loaded into a spare room in our house. There were probably 20 boxes, stacked nearly to the ceiling, in that little room: we never had the time or energy to go through it.

We finally did it Saturday. And yeah, most of it was destined for the second-hand store. But there were a few things we kept.

The first pair of pyjamas he wore after being admitted, with fire engines on them. Some superhero clothes that will look great on Samantha when we do the Mavericks' Superhero Night July 20. Some shoes and a couple hats. A wonderful crocheted version of Dominic, complete with an AFO on his leg, tubes in his chest and in his nose. What a wonderful tool to teach her about her brother.

Some items brought back memories. The furry brown snowsuit Trish put him in when she had to take him to get radiation on his brain at the Foothills Hospital. The radiation mask itself. The hat he wore when he matched my dad in a 'yep, they're related' photo we took. So many pyjamas because Dom basically lived in a hospital bed for most of his two years on this Earth.

And then we hauled them to the car, drove them to second-hand stores and they were gone.

This came on the same weekend we took the crib-side off Samantha's bed - something we'd never done for Dominic of course. It's about to be potty training time and that means she needs to be able to get out of bed in the middle of the night: She never has climbed out of the crib, though we are certain she could've if she wanted to.

With a cancer-free two-year-old in the house, we are basically living the life we should've when Dom turned that age. It's all new territory, from talking to worrying about what she is and isn't eating, what she can and can't get in to, marking off taller heights on the same chart we used for our son.

As we do, we get further and further from the life we did have with him. It's OK; we love our daughter as strongly as we ever loved our son, and his memory is always there with us moving forward. But the boxes are gone, soon to find new homes. It was an odd combination of freedom and sadness to see them go.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Extra Life United 2019: Unicorns and hugs

Extra Life United is over for another year, we're back home to our regular lives and wishing we could still be there.

As always, it was a wonderful experience.

First, the highlights. We got to meet Hudson, the Alberta Children's Hospital champion, whose story of perseverance and bravery dealing with mental health is an inspiration.

It turns out he first shared his story in 2014 during the hospital's radiothon: the one where Dominic was the poster boy.

I wish we could've spent more time meeting more champion kids - we only wound up getting proper introductions to about 10 of the two dozen or so there - but we appreciated the time we had. There were two sessions of meeting these kids and their parents, and after their stories were told we were able to ask some of our own questions. We might have induced a few tears asking the parents to explain to the audience how the impact of their situations lasts far beyond being initially healed. We are well aware of the fact childhood cancer survivors often have long-term debilitating side effects due to the chemotherapy they endured.

The week was a chance to meet the champions, but also friends we've made through Extra Life. None had ever met Samantha before, and oh my, was she a tour de force! From the opening-night onesie party to running all around the convention hallways, she and Trish definitely earned their Friday morning at the pool while I went to a few last panels.

It was at one of those panels where I had perhaps my most moving moment of the week. Although we have a ton of friends at Extra Life United, the total number of gamers and volunteers there totaled more than 250. For every friend there was a complete stranger. It's inevitable, and it's great that United continues to grow (there were less than 100 competitors when we first went in 2016).

So with that in mind, I wasn't really sure how much our story resonated with the Extra Life community. But in a panel about how to tell your why (introducing others to Extra Life), no less than four people in the room referenced Dominic as something that got them motivated to play games and heal kids. People from all over North America. People who are playing for their own hospitals, their own sick kids, and Dominic made an impact on them.

We were asked to pair off. I did with Mike, who'd played a game with me the night before but didn't know my story. And as I told it, I pretty much burst in to tears. It doesn't happen that often anymore, as I've told our story a zillion times. But it does still hurt. And knowing it has made a difference gives us strength to keep on telling it.

Speaking of the games, both Trish and I had some success! We each won a quarter-final table of the board game Azul, then finished second at our respective semifinal tables, earning $500 each for our hospital. It was discovered later I should've won my semifinal but that's another story for another time. We also played challenge station (non-tournament) games and Trish's name was drawn to compete on stage for another $100, and we wound up totalling US$1,320 in all for the hospital. I placed 42nd and Trish 45th overall among the 200-plus competitors.

When it was all said and done, a big group of us went to Epcot. There I spotted another one of the champion kids - this one who I hadn't met but had heard of. Allison is the champion for Cincinnati Children's, and she's had terrible kidney problems growing up. She also is transgender, which is something I don't think I've ever seen with a champion kid. The bravery of being so open and sharing her story is incredible, and I basically fanboyed on her, asked for a picture, the works. Then I sent it to another Extra Life friend, Joey, who couldn't be at United this year because he's having gender reassignment surgery in two weeks' time.

There are so many stories like this that come out of Extra Life United every year, and many more I just don't have the time to write about right now. But suffice it to say we're all caught up on hugs until the next time we're back, 2022.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Surprise items

It was no secret that we were going to Extra Life United this week in Orlando but we did manage to keep one amazing thing hidden until it started.

As a convention and gaming tournament, ELU brings together incredible people from around the world. Every year things change but a few traditions have grown: the rock, paper, scissors challenge involving every participant; a ton of folks wearing onesies; and pin trading.

The pin trading started because the champion kids at the larger Children’s Miracle Network conference (of which ELU is a part) used to include a night where everyone went around and met the champions, who sat dutifully for a couple hectic hours handing out pins and information at their respective booths in a massive ballroom.

Extra Life participants wanted to give something back to the kids. And what they had left, they traded amongst themselves.

In 2016 we had ribbons left over from Dom’s memorial service and business cards to give out. In 2017 we got special dice made with the #Dominicstrong logo, graciously donated by the gaming company Chessex. Some of the extras later wound up in our annual online auctions.

We wanted something unique again this year and inspiration came from Extra Life United 2018, which we weren’t able to attend. The traditional Canadian tabletop game crokinole became a big deal that year with a couple attendees (namely Michael Oliver) bringing boards to the conference to play on.

I contacted Crokinole Depot, based in Ontario, with the idea to get 200 of the wooden discs used in the game. They generously gave them for the cost of shipping.

I then went to Dean Harnack at Trophy and Engraving World with an idea. His business has donated many of the items in our auctions (with the magnificent word art from Natalie Long) and Dean had our logo engraved on each of the crokinole discs!

We had fun surprising Michael and some of the other crokinole enthusiasts this week, and will be giving out many more when we meet  champion kids and their families Thursday.

And you can bet there will be ways you can get your hands on full sets of the special discs. In fact, how about we give a set of 12 away right now! Donate at least $5 to either Trish ( or Sean’s ( Extra Life page between now and Friday and you’ll be entered into a random draw. We will cover the cost of shipping.

Look for a final update on how we did in the tournament Saturday once it’s all over and we are on our way home. And keep watching our social media feeds as we might make an appearance on the tournament’s live stream ( Thursday!

Monday, 18 March 2019

Back to our Extra Life family

You enter a new universe when you become a parent of a cancer patient: A new vocabulary of medications and diagnoses, names of nurses and doctors and support staff, friends for life because you share something you'd never want to share with anyone.

Years later, some of that has faded away. I can't rattle off the two-dozen regular drugs Dominic was on at the time of his death, nor the first names of half the folks we knew from the hospital.

But we still have those friends. And this week we get to have a big reunion with dozens of them, plus make many more.

Extra Life is the charity we found out about shortly after Dom wound up in hospital with leukemia. Play games, heal kids is the slogan, and that worked perfectly as we aimed to give back to the Alberta Children's Hospital where he received the most amazing care.

At first it seemed like the commitment would be once a year; a 24-hour gaming marathon with friends where we ask folks to sponsor us.

Then I decided to up the ante by shaving my head. When Dominic died in 2015 so did Trish, plus an entire family of friends (including their kids). Dozens of others joined us for the marathon and our entire community came together to support us.

Now there's an annual online auction, a mini-golf tournament and a special night with a local college-level baseball team. We've helped raised more than $175,000 through #Dominicstrong and consider it how we parent a son who's not physically here.

Extra Life is more than just that once-a-year marathon for many people. We have friends across North America who are involved in one event or another 365 days a year for their respective hospitals, and Extra Life itself puts on a special event every year in Orlando, Florida called Extra Life United.

We went to the second edition of ELU in 2016, barely five months after Dom passed. Because he died during his wish trip to Florida it was particularly emotional to return, but the love we experienced there - both from fellow Extra Lifers, Children's Miracle Network employees and champion children representing its 170-plus member hospitals - was unbelievable. The thumbs-up - Dominic's favourite piece of sign language - is now part of the special bond we share with that group.

When our daughter Samantha was born a year later, I was the only one able to go back to Extra Life United. In 2018 Trish was recently back to work as an accountant - tax season is usually a no-go for vacations.

But her work and mine know how much Extra Life means to us, and so we are back this year.

The big draw for ELU is a gaming tournament with more than US$150,000 to be won by attendees. They don't pocket the money, their respective children's hospitals do. We would love to earn a small portion of that for the Alberta Children's.

But those who have been know it's about so much more than that. Meeting up with friends new and old, another group of inspirational champion children and their families, and Extra Life and Children's Miracle Network staff whose work is so important and whose hearts are equally big.

A new journey begins and we can't wait.

Look for daily updates on our Facebook page ( with how things are going, plus Sean's Twitter feed (@seanrooney). If you'd like to help our cause directly, visit either of our Extra Life fundraising pages ( or

Thanks for being part of our journey, now and always.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Flipping the calendar

A month before hearing that Dominic was terminal, we had to come up with Christmas gifts for our families.

Given how many amazing photos there were of him, a month-by-month calendar made sense.

From the chubby cheeks when he was born to the omnipresent smile and eventually thumbs-up later, there were no shortage of choices.

It was the 2015 calendar, and until last month it still hung in our house. It was forever December 2015, the photo of him wearing a Santa hat in the main hallway towards Unit 1 at the Alberta Children's Hospital.

Turns out, the calendar still hung in a couple other places. One friend who we'd given one to got new calendars affixed beneath it, recycling the monthly photos of him.

It's never time to move on, but this year we've started to find ways to incorporate Dom into our new life with Samantha. She's started to recognize there's another baby with us in photos around the house, and that it's not her.

So 2019 has the Dominic and Samantha calendar. Photos in each month of both of them, except for their birth months when they get the month for themselves. And September, the month he died, is mainly photos of him.

No, this isn't the announcement of some new fundraiser. We're signed up for another year with Extra Life and are anxiously looking forward to the Extra Life United conference and tournament in March. We can even tell you the date for the Medicine Hat Mavericks' Superhero Night - Saturday, July 20! The mini golf tournament will hopefully return, as will the online auction. And there is some early interest in doing a public 24-hour gaming marathon again... but we'd need help to make it happen. If you're interested in taking a leading organizational role, let us know.

We are proud to announce that the apparel sales from December resulted in a $600 donation to Helping Families Handle Cancer! There are still a handful of cotton shirts and tank tops that weren't sold. If you're interested just email with what size in what style you're looking for. If we have it, they'll be $25 per item (plus shipping).

Not much other news but hope you've had a good start to the new year.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Silver linings

Christmas can be the hardest time of year.

Days are at their shortest, so there's less sunshine. It's cold. And every happy person, every happy family has the potential to remind unhappy people, people who have suffered loss exactly what they're missing.

Some days it's easiest to put your head down and just try to get through it.

Or serendipity occurs and all you can do is thank the universe for what you still do have.

We put the call out for a new order of #Dominicstrong clothing last month. That post has 173 hits as of today, making it by far the least-read thing ever on this blog. I was not optimistic.

For all we do for the Alberta Children's Hospital via Extra Life, this was one thing we wanted to do for Helping Families Handle Cancer, which is a much less-known charity but still so valuable to families in our part of the province.

The order wasn't huge, about 30 items, and when it's all said and done we should be able to donate about $450. And that's fine. That money will be appreciated and used well.

And then I screwed it up. On the invoice sent to us, I didn't see that I was agreeing to cotton shirts, not the dryfit ones we wanted. Black, cotton ladies tank tops instead of the gold, dryfit ones we announced. I had done a poor job of communicating what I wanted.

When the box of clothing arrived, I was mortified. We had no choice but to re-order what we wanted.

Thankfully, Custom ImageWear generously offered to do the corrected order at cost. We paid for it out of pocket and will not be shorting HFHC. Actually, we might be able to give more.

You see, we now have all those incorrect shirts and tank tops. Gold ones with black lettering and logos. But in cotton, and only in the sizes that people had ordered for the dryfit. And some of the people who bought the dryfit ones have anted up and bought the matching cotton ones too.

We will sell the cotton ones for $25 apiece. If you're interested, simply email or contact either Trish or I privately and we can let you know what sizes remain.

It was already going to be a quiet Christmas. I'm working Christmas Day for the first time in a while, which is only fair since co-workers have done it regularly, and I got lucky with holidays and off-days a couple times.

We won't have much under the tree because we're going to Orlando in March for Extra Life United, a charity and gaming event we first went to in 2016. It is not cheap to do, and we are grateful Trish's work has agreed to let her take the time off during tax season. Seeing our friends in that community again will be like a late Christmas.

On Sunday we had a bit of Christmas shopping to do. It seemed like around every corner was someone I knew, all of whom had a smile and kind words for us. Got a discount on a board game we have to learn to play for Extra Life United. Dropped by EB Games in the mall where the manager still remembers us and will give me a call once specially-branded Extra Life/Microsoft socks arrive (supporting Children's Miracle Network!)

It got to the point we stopped on a street and a guy came around the corner walking his dog, stopped, so we rolled down our window and chatted.

After shopping, we went to the local Ihop for brunch. At the end of our meal our waitress told us someone had paid our bill, with a message: "Always be Dominicstrong."

Whoever you are, thank you. We're so lucky to have this community. And we hope that the charity work we do can help other families, not just during the holidays but all year long.

By the way, since we started doing Extra Life in 2013, just a month after Dom's leukemia diagnosis, participants under the #Dominicstrong Extra Life banner have raised more than $175,000 (estimate, prior years collected in US dollars). This year's total sits at $24,115 (Canadian). Special thanks to Kevin Braun, whose Nov. 25 game day pushed him to nearly $5,000 alone and ended with him shaving his head and beard!