ST. PAUL -- Before Matt Dumba was a full-time NHL blueliner clad in Iron Range Red, he spent the better part of the 2013-14 season in Portland, Oregon.
By day, he skated for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, honing his craft and carving up the ice. But by night, you could find him at home with his billet family, the Conways: Joe, Hillary and their two kids, Dylan and Lily.
Billet families in Portland are spread far and wide, so Matt spent a lot of his time at the Conway home hanging out with Dylan. Video game tournaments, homework help, movie marathons and shooting hoops in the driveway forged a brotherly bond between the two.
"I know Dylan definitely looked up to me and his parents definitely thought that we were a pretty good tandem," Matt said.
Even after leaving Portland and moving back to Minnesota, Matt still stays in touch with the Conway family, especially Dylan. Last year, when Dylan had a hockey tournament in the Twin Cities, Matt spent the whole day with Dylan and the rest of the Conways at the Mall of America, sightseeing and catching up.
It was no surprise, then, that Matt was nothing short of a proud older brother when he heard from the Conways that Dylan had been nominated for the 2017 Student of the Year fundraising award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), a competition between high school students across the country to raise money for blood and bone cancer research and treatment.
Dylan's involvement with LLS over the past couple years led him to discover a passion for helping those affected by blood and bone cancer. He told Matt stories about Liz, a girl his age who was dealing with cancer, and how touched he was to be able to positively impact in her life.
"He cares so much, really," Matt said. "He really wears his heart on his sleeve. He's one of those kids that I can see going on and making a difference."
To give back for all the Conways have given him and to support his billet brother, Matt made a $1,000 contribution to Dylan's campaign. Over the next 10 games the Wild plays, Matt will also give $200 per each Wild win.
It's his way of saying thank you to his second family.
"I really just want to make people aware of this. It's such a terrible disease, and for kids to have to face this and for families to face this on their own ... the treatments are just so vigorous and hard on the family in general," Matt said. "Whatever you do, whatever you donate, it's gonna go so far. It really does. That's what I've seen so far in working with them, and that's what's touched me so much."
Those interested in Dylan's campaign can click here for more information.