At first glance, he is a typical 8-year-old. He is wearing a road white Blues jersey on Sunday afternoon that is about one size too big for him, but he doesn’t mind. His last name, “Ivanowski” is stitched on the back above the No. 18. He is a bundle of energy, running around and jumping at the chance to do what he and so many of his friends enjoy so much: playing video games. But there’s an added bonus for Dawson on this particular Sunday. He gets to play hockey on Xbox with his favorite Blues players.
Just a day earlier, Dawson was returning from Philadelphia, where he received his second experimental treatment to help cure the neuroblastoma he was diagnosed with in April 2005.
“Dawson’s the epitome of a fighter,” said Blues defenseman Barret Jackman
, who has gotten to know Dawson and his family through the various charity events the Blues have organized to help raise money for Dawson’s battle with cancer.
Charity events like the one on Sunday, where the team spent the afternoon at Side Pockets in St. Charles for Dream Night with the Blues. The event was organized to raise money for the St. Louis chapter of the Dream Factory, a nonprofit organization that aims to make the dreams of critically ill children come true, whether it be a trip to DisneyWorld or a hospital visit from their favorite athlete.
For a small donation, fans could get autographs and challenge their favorite Blues players to video games, darts, pool and more. In addition, the Blues auctioned off jerseys, tickets and even a golden Labrador puppy to help raise more money.
“It’s an unbelievable cause,” said Blues center Doug Weight. “Having the kids on your lap and having the kids smiling, relaxing and seeing their parents have fun, it goes so much further than two or three hours. It’s a special night and it’s always fun.”
Fun was the word of the day, especially for kids like Bradley Pitman, who saved up his allowance to use at Dream Night. He knows first hand what the Dream Factory does for sick children: Dawson is his friend and teammate on their Kirkwood little league hockey team.
“Seeing some of the kids here today, it’s just awesome to see the families supporting the Dream Factory,” said Lee Ann Pitman, Bradley’s mom. “It’s great to give back. That’s the big lesson that Bradley has learned from Dawson having cancer. It’s that you have to give back.”
|Blues defenseman Barret Jackman (left) poses for a photo with Dawson Ivanowski (center) and his friend, Bradley Pitman (right) after winning an auction for a new puppy. |
Dawson relapsed last August, but found a group of doctors focused on curing neuroblastoma with an experimental treatment, a procedure Dawson has been through twice. Tests after the initial treatment showed that the cancer had significantly decreased.
But for the time being, Dawson doesn’t have to worry about all that. Not on this day. Because in addition to figuring out how to beat Blues players at video game hockey, he’s also got something else to keep him busy: a new puppy.
Dawson was sitting on Jackman’s lap while the puppy was being auctioned off, and he raised his hand to place a bid on the dog.
“[Dawson] was doing the bidding for me, but the dog was for him,” Jackman said. “Just to see the smile on the kid’s face when he picked up the dog, it was a pretty good feeling.”
John Ivanowski, Dawson’s father, said he was thrilled with the Blues' generosity and was happy that the money raised from Dream Night would help kids like Dawson experience their dreams.
“A lot of people don’t get to do this,” he said. “We’ve been pretty lucky to get close the Blues.”
The dog, the family’s fourth, has been named “Jack.”
For Jackman, buying Dawson a new pet was a no-brainer.
“A lot of people that know me pretty much say that I’m a completely different guy when I’m on the ice,” he said. “I get the skates on and I’m a pretty fierce competitor. Off the ice, I’m pretty laid back and I just love family and love friends. Dawson was really excited about the dog. It was nice to be able to do something like that.”
The event raised more than $34,000 for the Dream Factory.
“When you leave there, [the kids] take a lot with them,” Weight said. “The most important thing is we can raise a lot of money for great causes and great kids, but secondly, they just had a lot of fun. The whole night’s just really special.”