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                                                                                               Life's Simple Things

Virtually everyone who participates in these events, whether as a volunteer, a sponsor, a major donor, a participant or simply as a spectator, cannot help but be deeply touched by what occurs. Among those who have attended an event was a John Abbott student named Jennifer Biondi. In 1997 she was so overwhelmed by the experience that she wrote down her thoughts and impressions of the evening. The complete text follows:

On a cold winter's evening in early February of this year, an event took place at John Abbott College which touched the hearts of many people, including myself. John Abbott is a college located in the small town of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec, Canada. Like every other Friday night, the John Abbott men's hockey team suited up for a regular season game. Only this night was not an ordinary night. On this night, the team was to introduce their newest superstar, the John Abbott College Islanders honorary captain, twelve year old, Brent Mingo.

Earlier in the year, Islander coach, Bob McEwen, met Brent under unfortunate circumstances at the Montreal Children's Hospital. The hospital was Brent's second home. Brent was born with bacterial meningitis and therefore spent the majority of his time receiving different kinds of treatment. Twelve year old Brent was, at the time of birth, given only six months to live. He has astounded the medical world and has doctors asking themselves, "How has this happened?" They do not have a medical explanation as to why Brent has lived this long. Despite an obvious handicap on his right side (limp and a slight twitch), and despite several episodes of seizures, Brent strives to live life to its fullest. Brent tries his best at everything he does; he'll skate as fast as he can, he strives to be the smartest student in class, and he'll challenge anyone to an arm-wrestle.

Since birth, Brent has been treated by the same doctor. His doctor often refers to him as "the toughest little miracle". During one of his many stays at the hospital, Brent roomed with a boy named Tim. Tim's father was Bob McEwen, head coach of the John Abbott College men's hockey team. Together, Tim and Brent discovered that they had a lot in common. They liked the same video games, enjoyed the same school subjects, but most of all, they both shared a love for the game of hockey.

Brent expressed to coach Bob McEwen that his wish was to be a part of a major hockey team. All he wanted to do was to participate in team activities such as the "locker room talk". He wanted to practice with the team and attend all of the team's home games. Brent's request through the Children's "Make a Wish Foundation" was rejected by both the National Hockey League as well as all the Tier II and Triple A reams. They stated that they "don't have time" for a little kid. Being the coach of a major hockey team, Bob thought that he might be able to fulfill Brent's dream and named him "Honorary Captain" of the John Abbott Islanders hockey team.

On this specific evening, Brent, as well as all of the other children who suffer incurable diseases, was honoured. The entire school participated in fund-raising activities and asked fellow students for donations in order to raise money for the Montreal Children's Hospital. The money raised was to buy toys and gifts for all of the kids who lived at the hospital. After a month of successful fund-raising, Brent was to present a cheque for $5,200 to the hospital, as one of his ways of saying, "thank you".

The arena was packed with several hundred fans and supporters. It was difficult to move around due to the large number of people. It made me feel good knowing that all of these people were there to help and support a twelve year old boy whom we did not know personally, but for some reason felt we understood. This was the young boy who, throughout the year, we watched laugh, smile, cry and cheer on the team. This was also the boy who was not expected to live past six months. There was an uneasy feeling in the air that night. There were feelings of anxiety, fear, happiness and excitement combined together, which resulted in this uneasiness.

In between the first and second periods, Brent made his first appearance dressed in full hockey equipment and escorted by the three team captains. The D.J. played the theme song from "Rocky", and Brent made his tour around the rink. As he skated, his handicap became evident as he struggled to keep his balance. I felt sorry for him.

I felt sorry that he was not able to skate gracefully like most kids his age and I also felt angry. I was angry because I didn't think it was fair that an innocent child, like Brent, had to suffer such a significant physical handicap. The moment I noticed the pride in his smile and the happiness in his laughter, it became evident why God had selected Brent. Brent had the capability of overcoming his illness and finding the bright side to his handicap. He did not dwell on what he was not capable of doing, rather he excelled in the things which he could do.
 

As he skated, the arena filled with encouraging applause. I stood by the glass applauding and praying that he would make it around successfully. He did. As he approached the opposing team, they formed a tunnel of sticks for Brent to skate under. What a moment! What a feeling! It was as though, for that one brief second, we all became part of Brent. I cried at the successful completion of his tour, not because I was sad, but because I had just witnessed one of Brent's tremendous accomplishments. I was a part of his adventure.

During Brent's final appearance, he handed the cheque over to his doctor. It was then that the most memorable moment took place. The team captains lifted Brent high over their shoulders and skated around the rink one last time with the support of sticks tapping a melody on the ice. They lifted him high where everyone could see his childlike features, so overwhelmed with happiness. They lifted him high as if to say that Brent was a "victory". He had such a thirst for life and craved to overcome the challenges which his disease presented to him. He left his mark on the John Abbott College arena that night. It was an event which touched the hearts of many people. Brent taught me to appreciate my health and physical capabilities. He taught me not to take anything for granted. I am proud to say that I know him. It was this night, Brent's night, that I began to understand how lucky I really am.