by tbaby, HSM guest contributor
When you hear a child say that God doesn’t cure everyone – you immediately think that they are talking about an older person with an illness. Never did I in my infinite wisdom believe that they were talking about themselves – but they were. And never did I believe that something so awful could affect one of my children. Now I have learned the difficult way, that God does not cure everyone – and that everyone’s name was Victoria.
Victoria, or Tori Jo, as her friends called her, arrived on June 15, 1992 as our third child. We had two girls and a boy, and our family was complete. We thought our life was pretty perfect until…
Having had quite a tough childhood, I consider myself extremely blessed. Being the oldest among all my siblings, I am fortunately the most successful, being the first of anyone in my family to go to graduate school, let alone get a college degree, and without my family, I wouldn’t be where I am today. When I moved from Albuquerque to come to Dallas, I promised to always look after them. Every month without exception, I send some money back home to help them.
Knowing that my younger family members look up to me, compels me to provide a good example. This includes giving back to the community and those less fortunate. Whether donating clothes to Goodwill, or participating in charity events such as Heart Walk for The American Heart Association, or helping the many victims of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, I have always considered myself a very giving person. In the years I have lived in Dallas, I have found that there is never a shortage of charity events. I have even done promotional work for various charity functions over the years. Regardless if I am a participant or supporter at any such event, it is always a heart-warming experience to gather with other people who are all united for a common cause.
When my daughter was born almost four years ago, I realized that my life had changed forever. I now know what people mean when they say there is nothing stronger than the bond between a mother and her child. The thought of losing my daughter for any reason is unfathomable. I remember what a mess I was the first time I had to take my daughter to the doctor for getting sick. That’s one of the things about being a mother – all the worrying even over the smallest things. I can only imagine what it is like for a mother to lose her child, but I know I would be absolutely devastated. I would not wish that kind of pain upon anyone, thus any cause for children is close to my heart.
A few weeks ago, I came across a post on Twitter about some charity event called Extra Life. I had never heard of this before, so I went to their website to find out more information. Within a couple of minutes of browsing the site, I quickly decided to register. I learned that participants were to raise money for pediatric cancer research by playing video games for 24 hours starting on October 15th. It seemed like a fun way to raise money for an important cause that again would be for children.
Imagine being 11 years of age – and hearing the word CANCER and knowing that the person who had CANCER was YOU… I can’t even imagine how she felt. When the doctors told her, I saw her tears and I saw her little shoulders shake and I knew at that moment, that our lives as we knew it would never, ever be the same again.
Victoria never cried again!
Extra Life was inspired by a girl named Victoria Enmon, or Tori Jo, as her friends liked to call her. At the age of 15, Tori lost her life to acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2008. Her battle with the fatal disease inspired the Sarcastic Gamer Community to start a video gaming marathon to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
After registering on the site and setting my fund raising goal, I began spreading the word to try to gain supporters. I started with my social networks. Some of you may know how I frequent the Twitterverse and seeing that it was where I had found out about Extra Life, it seemed like the most appropriate channel to start. From my Extra Life page, I found a link to send a Tweet about my participation, which was the first thing I did after I registered. I also posted on Google+. I was encouraged to find other participants and received many comments about the event on both networks, with many people sharing or retweeting my posts to further spread the word.
Then I proceeded to visit every PlayStation/PS Home forum site I belonged to and made a post about supporting Extra Life. My posts were well received, especially by members of PS Talent and Club Incognito. While posting on the GamerIndepth forum site, I learned that GI was creating its own team for Extra Life. I also learned of fellow Extra Life participants at PS Talent and was thankful to see that CorisuCat, PST’s Director of Public Relations, had created a promotional page on their website listing all PST members who are Extra Life participants with links to our donation pages.
If I could tell you one thing to remember about Victoria would be that she was always positive that she was going to beat Cancer. She never gave up Hope and she never lost Faith! Her courage was endless. She was a fighter.
I was determined to utilize every resource I had to get the word out about Extra Life. Finally, I sent out PSN messages to everyone on my friends list telling them about my participation in Extra Life and to forward the message to all their friends. The message was well received and I got several responses, some from friends I hadn’t even heard from in a while, all wishing me luck for the upcoming marathon.
I had set my goal to $100, and hoped that I could get at least four participants to each donate at least a dollar for every hour that I would game. The donations slowly came in, as well as more messages of encouragement and good luck. In the days leading up to the event, I continued to rally for supporters and saw that my donation collection was nearing my goal. At that point, I decided to raise my goal another $50 to $150, as I was determined to raise even more money. I was hopeful that I would continue to receive last minute donations, even on the day/night of the marathon.
After weeks of anticipation, the day had finally arrived and I was ready. I got up around 8am, showered, got dressed, and made breakfast for my family. I set aside plenty of snacks and drinks: Fruit Roll-ups, Rice Crispy treats, and CapriSun, and setup my laptop on the coffee table. My sister had taken the day off work to stay home to help, especially with the cooking for the rest of the day. Even my daughter was ready to play with my Nintendo DS. I posted to Twitter and Google+ and a few forum sites informing the public that I was about to begin. I saw that a few of my friends who were participating had already been gaming for a few hours so I was excited to get this marathon under way. After responding to a few messages wishing me good luck, I powered up my PS3 – let the gaming begin!
First, I signed onto Home (because it counted too) to see which of my friends were there. I ran into my sister from Club Incognito, Rhonda, and talked to her for a bit. Then I saw that my friend geomon19, who was also an Extra Life participant, was at Sodium 2. I asked Rhonda if she wanted to go there so we could get in a few races. Sorry to say, but this little speed demon – even though a little rusty after having not raced there in a while – left the other racers in the dust track after track. Maybe my super loaded race craft might have had a little to do with it, but I would like to think it was mostly because of my superior racing skills.
After several races, I was out of boosters and so we stopped racing. Rhonda said she had to go and so that left me and Geo contemplating what we were going to do next. Now those of you that know Geo know how much he loves Mortal Kombat. We had talked about playing the game so many times in the past but never got to do so. We had tried once before, but the servers were lagging badly and we could never finish a fight. Well today was the day where we were finally going to do battle!
We launched the game right from Home. I wish Jersquall and Sophronia had been around at the time to hear about it, because we all know how much they would love to hear about Geo getting beat at Mortal Kombat so they could say – all together now – SUCK IT GEO!
I knew that Geo was very good at the game – I’ve seen many YouTube videos of him playing the game, including one where he unfortunately beat my friend kingofgames_30, an avid gamer in his own right. Geo and I had joked in the past about how “Master Sub-Geo” always had his Mortal Kombat dojo open for lessons. Well I certainly got schooled that day!
Even after I lost match after match… after match after match, I was determined to win. There were so many matches that were close and I almost won, but like a wise man once said, close only counts in two things – horseshoes and hand grenades. But finally, after several failed attempts, a miracle happened, and I wish I had recorded it – I WON!
Needless to say, that would be my only Mortal Kombat victory over Geo that day. After a few more fights, I decided that getting another win wasn’t going to happen any time soon so I decided it was time to move onto another game. I thanked Geo for the games and said that I would return another time for some more fighting lessons.
Today I want you to be a fighter for Victoria and a fighter for all of those children who spend endless days and months in a hospital. For these children the simplest things are the things we take for granted.
I went back on Home to visit with more friends and found my friend TempestBladesong from GamerIndepth. We chatted for a bit and then I got an invite from another friend who had a question about a donation. I learned that the donations could only be taken using credit cards with US billing addresses. This posed a problem for my friends from the UK that wanted to make donations. We came up with the idea of them sending me a US PSN card and I made a donation in their name of equivalent value. Maybe in the future, Extra Life could support credit cards with international billing addresses. I think they had the same problem when they tried to use Pay Pal.
After that, it was time to play another game and my sister from PST – Cocobaby_84 - had asked me if I wanted to join her in playing some Uncharted 3 Beta. I had actually told her I was going to join her a while ago, but had taken a little too long visiting with my friends on Home, so by the time I got on the game, she had stopped playing because she wasn’t feeling well. I was still in the mood to play it, so I did for a couple of hours. The game is really fun and I can’t wait until it’s released.
Now it was time to play one of my favorite games, NBA 2K11. All of my close friends know that I am a die-hard Dallas Mavericks fan and of course they are my team of choice in all my basketball video games. I looked for my friend gamer_316 to have a rematch from the last time we played, but he said that his internet connection was being unstable and so he wasn’t able to play online reliably. Maybe he was just scared that he would actually lose this time?
This gave me an excuse to play the newer version of the game that I had bought only a week before, NBA 2K12. I played a few online games, most of which I am happy to say I won, but spent most of my time playing Association mode, which an entire NBA season is simulated. After a few hours of playing this, I was getting hungry and so it was time to take a quick break to eat. I signed into Home so I could visit with friends while I ate.
During this break, I took the opportunity to catch up on Twitter and PSN messages. It was great to get words of encouragement from my friends. This helped keep me going as it was starting to get late at night and we had been gaming for almost half a day at this point. I also messaged other participants and told them to keep forging ahead. I felt virtually connected with all of them as we each provided our updates on our progress. It was during this time that I saw that I had received another donation that had put me over my goal. I had now raised $152 dollars for Extra Life!
When Victoria passed away, I knew again, our lives would never be the same. The hole in our heart is always there and each day I have that reminder that there is never a “do-over” in life. I cannot go back and do this over and make it right. I can not make it right for Victoria. That is the guilt that I carry with me each and every day. Victoria never got to go to high school like other children, she didn’t get a driver’s license, go on a date, or even get to graduate and there was nothing that I could do to spare her life. I, as the Mom, could not find a drug that would have cured her, and so I had to tell her goodbye… I felt like I failed her.
My daughter had been by my side almost the entire time, playing on my Nintendo DS or watching me play. I told her that we would make time to play on my Wii together, which she really loves. But eventually, she fell asleep lying on my chest. The funny thing was when I tried to pick her up to put her in bed, she awoke and looked at me and said “NO mama! I wanna play with you!”
Those words made my heart melt. What an adorable little trooper! I had lost track of time and we had not yet played on the Wii together and so I asked her if she would like to do that. She nodded yes with her sleepy little head. We moved to my sister’s room and proceeded to get Wii-tarded for about an hour or so. My daughter didn’t last long and while waiting for her turn she fell asleep on the end of the bed. She looked so cute! It’s moments like these that kept me going and reminded me of what this all was for: the children, our future.
After putting my daughter to bed, I checked Twitter and saw tweets from Cyrus and GlassWalls about playing Mod Nation Racers. Cyrus was broadcasting his gaming from his justin.tv channel. I immediately went to the site and signed into the chat room where I found Sophronia and Cat who were also playing. I put in my game and realized that I had to download a big update and so I wasn’t able to play with them right away. But I was able to watch them play via Cyrus’ web cam and chat with them while I downloaded. After the download was finally complete, I was able to join the others and what a fun time that was!
We were later joined by homeboy79 for a few games as well. I think we raced for about four hours, which seemed to fly by because we were having so much fun. I have to say that Cyrus was extremely entertaining to watch and I learned a lot of funny new catch phrases like “Boom to the power of Boom.” It’s so much fun to hear all the trash talking that goes on while playing multi-player games.
When they decided it was time to switch games, they settled on playing LBP2, which I don’t have. But I stayed logged onto the channel while and took a little break to get on PS Home again to see some of my late night friends there. I also caught up on more Tweets and messages. Meanwhile, a couple more people joined the chat room, like darkan12 and yazter. Darkan12 was standing by with her coffee offering us moral support and apparently yazter was joining back after having fallen asleep for a bit but was ready to resume his gaming for the marathon.
As you prepare for your event – please do not give up Hope… Continue to keep battling for Victoria – and for the other children – YOU CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!
After about another hour or so, I saw that the sun was coming up and so I knew that the end of the marathon was approaching. Surprisingly, I was not as tired as I thought I would be. I keep telling people I solely rely on my natural energy and they think I’m crazy, but with this kind of sleep deprivation, I think we were all a little crazy anyway.
Soon my sister was up making breakfast. At this point I had started playing more U3 Beta. Then my daughter wakes, all rested while I am slumped on the couch playing – what a contrast that was! Actually, it was refreshing to see my little princess and I smiled big when she came over to give her tired mommy a kiss. At this point, I think I was more physically tired, as my mind seemed to be quite awake, having been constantly stimulated by all the sounds and visuals of the games I had been playing.
This was the homestretch and the light at the end of the tunnel was near. I see my friend Cocobaby_84 was back online and I asked if she wanted to play some U3 Beta too, but she suggested we try some GTA4.
I hadn’t played that game in a while, so again I had to download an update for the game. After finally getting that ready, we tried to hook up for a multi-player game, but couldn’t get that to work for whatever reason – which was not the first time – and so we just spent some time chatting and catching up. And then I realized it – the marathon was over. I had gamed for 24 hours straight! I immediately sent out PSN messages, sent out Tweets, posted on websites proclaiming that I had officially survived Extra Life!
Now I could finally get some much needed sleep. However, it’s hard for me to sleep when the sun is up and my daughter is bouncing around the house with all her high energy, so I stayed up for a bit to work on my laptop. I had received many replies on PSN and Tweets, personally congratulating me.
While I thanked each and every one, I was compelled to give credit to all the other participants and all our supporters as it was truly an amazing team effort with everyone involved making a difference and helping us to achieve our goals. Collectively we had raised over 1.1 million dollars – this was the most that has ever been raised in Extra Life history! I also recently learned that due to an overwhelming response of people still wanting to donate, Extra Life will continue to accept donations well into November and this past Saturday, October 22, was an official make-up day for those participants that still needed to finish their hours of gaming or didn’t get a chance to game the week before. If you have not already, and are able to, please send your donation to extra-life.org. You can even submit your donation using my page.
This was a great experience and I will beyond a shadow of a doubt definitely participate again next year. Extra Life is yet another example of what the gaming community is capable of and what good they can do for society. I want to thank everyone that showed their support to me and all the other participants of Extra Life, including my friends from Club Incognito, PS Talent, GamerIndepth, and yourplaystationhome. I also want to give a special thanks to Terra at HSM for her support from the very beginning and giving me the great idea to write about my awesome experience with Extra Life.
One day we will all see the difference you have made in the lives of a children with cancer and other serious diseases and injuries– they will be cured and saved. We will all know how you made that difference in your efforts to heal sick children. Thank you all so much for what you are doing for the children!
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.”
Jo Ellen Enmon
Mother of Victoria (Tori Jo) Enmon