Competition hasn't even begun and we're already overwhelmed. Last night was the kickoff for Extra Life United here in Orlando and we got to share a new video, this one produced by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
Because I know lots of people back home want to see it, I won't waste any time. Here's the link: https://vimeo.com/155881693
Don Fyffe and his crew did a magnificent job combining laughter, tears and hope to share with anyone involved with Extra Life, or anyone who might not know what it's about.
What you don't see in the video is who introduced us, and what happened after. Jo Ellen and Victor Enmon are the parents of Victoria, who's the inspiration behind Extra Life. Tori, as she was known, had a remarkably similar story trajectory to Dominic: Diagnosed with leukemia, two failed bone marrow transplants, an incredible attitude throughout, but taken too soon by a fungal infection.
Her parents interviewed us on stage after the video presentation. What's it like being back in Orlando six months later? I'd say 95 per cent wonderful, five per cent disastrous. It's OK to embrace the times that tear you down.
We have met so many amazing people, and I know we're going to meet more. There are upwards of 120 people competing in PC, console and tabletop games with us the next two days, with money up for grabs in each of four sessions for our local children's hospitals. You can watch it all unfold at http://www.twitch.tv/extralife4kids on live broadcasts.
Two of the other kids on stage Tuesday night added to the inspiration. Champion kids Jessica and Joe told their stories, both of perseverance through disease and giving back, through charity. Joe even participated in the Extra Life 24-hour game day last year, raising $3,000!
They announced the rules, the games (Blokus, Liar's Dice and Love Letter today, Settlers of Catan tomorrow in the tabletop track), then turned us loose.
I figured that was enough excitement for one evening, but there was one last surprise. Sitting outside at a table with a bunch of Extra Lifers, we were approached by Noah, a champion child who I know better than most. My chair almost hit the ground as I sprung up to high-five him.
Noah and I were neck-and-neck in Extra Life fundraising this past year. While he's a champion child from Vermont who's had more than 20 surgeries in his eight years, Noah also has a love of video games. His Extra Life page raised more than $40,000 last year, and our pages were neck-and-neck. I often joked 'I'm taking this kid DOWN!'
Just like in fundraising, the competition at United is all in good fun. I couldn't even tell you who raised more last year, his page or mine. It doesn't matter. And who wins this week won't matter as much as the connections we forge, the memories we make together.