Friday, 26 February 2016

Thumbs up

Dominic's trademark thumbs up only showed up in the last six months of his life, but it's come to mean so much for us and our community.

Its significance has exploded these past few days.

When taping interviews for the video to be shown here at Extra Life United in Orlando, I told of how Dom responded in his final hours with a thumbs up when I asked him to wait for mommy. I couldn't get out the words, instead giving a thumbs up of my own to finish it.

When we walked off the stage at Tuesday night's opening ceremonies, I gave the thumbs up and a bunch of our new gaming friends responded in kind.

Suddenly, every photo we took with them — and there were many — required everyone flashing thumbs.

When the entire 135 or so of us (about 120 gamers plus organizers and Tori's Angels, volunteers who incredibly came to help instead of play) gathered for one group photo, there were the thumbs again.

I'm proud to say I called the winner of the gaming competition weeks in advance. I played the game Rocket League with Matt from Tennessee earlier this month and tweeted that he's probably the front-runner. Well, he wound up winning upwards of US$50,000 for his local hospital, barely edging out Jamie from California who earned more than $25,000.

That was the competitive highlight, and it was amazing. Both finalists' hospital representatives were in attendance cheering them on, along with all of us of course. The emotion of knowing what they'd done for the kids was written clear as day on their faces.

Then we got to meet all 64 champion kids at a pin ceremony. Trish and I couldn't get to them all because we stopped and talked and hugged and cried with so many, wanting to explain what we were giving them in return for the pins and signatures they gave us.

We gave the same ribbons from Dominic's memorial service made by Cherisse with the thumbs up on them, hand-drawn again by Trevor. Plus I made business cards with the #Dominicstrong logo and contact information. On the back side? The same photo that the video ends on. We ordered them before we'd seen the video.

One moment from that ceremony stands out. I was excited to meet Aiden, British Columbia's champion child, because last year at this time we were in Vancouver and Dom got transfusions at the B.C. Children's Hospital there. Trish later met his mom, and shared our story.

Her first reaction was to take off a necklace she had on and give it to Trish.

It's a gold ribbon with the word hope inscribed on it.

We had so much hope for Dominic. It was all shattered six months ago. But seeing the kids here this week, we've been reminded how important hope is, both with them but also with us.

Extra Life United ended with the medal ceremony this morning to conclude the Children's Miracle Network Momentum conference. Those kids thrived in the spotlight, one getting up from his wheelchair to stand on prosthetic legs and another doing a handstand on stage with host Nick Cannon.

We have so much to hope for in our own lives after Dom. We have so much to be inspired by these kids.

We are forever better for having been here.

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