NEW GLASGOW – It was June 5, 2010, exactly 18 minutes past 11 p.m.
Drew and Kaitlin Graham remember it well, the moment their 3 ½ -year-old son Oliver passed away from cancer, surrounded by family.
Drew had been holding his son’s hand, and had intended to step from his son’s bedside for a moment, when Oliver wrapped his tiny fist around his dad’s finger.
“It was like, ‘don’t leave, dad’ and I’m so glad I stayed,” Drew Graham says.
Oliver took his last breath seconds later, he recalls, but “I’m happy to have that memory, I really am.”
Sad, yes. Tragic, yes. But the Grahams wanted to let some light shine in too, and six months later, the first annual Cancer Sucks Cup was held, a fundraiser that sees all proceeds shared between the IWK oncology/hematology unit and Ronald McDonald House in Halifax.
“IT’S ALSO ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE”
On Wednesday afternoon, their 12-year-old son Jax was somewhere in the family’s home on the west side of New Glasgow and Rosie, a small dog that joined the family before Oliver died, was barking away, knowing there’s a stranger in the house.
Drew, meanwhile, sat at the kitchen table, sharing memories as final preparations are being made for a hockey tournament (Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and free skate, which will be Friday from 7 to 9 p.m., where all will be welcomed, whether they are able to make donations or not.
“I couldn’t let it get the best of me,” he said of how Cancer Sucks Cup came to exist.
“I thought ‘what would I want Oliver to do if I died?’ I’d rather have him back, but I really think this is what Oliver would want us to do – make the best of it,” he said.
Sometime late Friday, Graham will load up his vehicle and travel to Halifax to drop everything off, helping to make the Christmas season a little brighter for sick children and their families.
“To me, this is about Oliver. To Kait, it’s about Oliver, but it’s also about other people who might be going through hell right now,” he says.
Once the donations were tallied after the 2016 Cancer Sucks Cup, more than $70,000 had been raised since that first one back in 2010.
The canteen will be open, and prizes will be raffled off during the fundraiser, with all events being held at Trenton rink.
People wishing to make donations can drop off gift cars, monetary donations or toys anytime between now and Friday night. “The toys for the younger kids need to be easily cleaned,” he cautioned.
“For the younger ones, some of them will have weakened immune systems.”
Kaitlyn Graham, Drew says, “has been doing the heavy lifting” this year, trying to get everything organized, and the Grahams also have a loyal group of friends who help organize the event year after year.
“To everybody who helped – and there’s a million of them who have – please let them know we thank them.”