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Filed under Feature

Sean’s Gift

Friends+of+Sean%3A+Alex%2C+Andrew%2C+Michael%2C+Chris%2C+Christian%2C+%26+Ryan
Friends of Sean: Alex, Andrew, Michael, Chris, Christian, & Ryan

Friends of Sean: Alex, Andrew, Michael, Chris, Christian, & Ryan

Photo by Sarah Bacon

Photo by Sarah Bacon

Friends of Sean: Alex, Andrew, Michael, Chris, Christian, & Ryan

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When asked to describe last year’s “Stick it to Cancer” tournament, its coordinator, Ms. Angela D’Amico responded: “The atmosphere was electric. The gym was packed with people showing their support…His smile was priceless. What a beautiful person and what an incredible inspiration he was.”

It has been about a year since Patchogue-Medford lost one of its own. Sean Patrick Dixon, a name our high school family has come to know as well as the greater pediatric cancer community in the years Sean fought the disease.

It seemed everyone knew him in some way. Our high school principal, Dr. Randy Rusielewicz, knew Sean as a “courageous young man who was very humble.” Sean personally taught him about “humbleness, mortality, humanity, and being thankful for each day.”

Sean’s friends knew him from the very beginning. Senior Alex Hamarich had been friends with Sean since they were five when they first met while playing T-Ball. As one of Sean’s closest friends, when Alex found out his diagnosis, he has since “played and ran for him, always keeping him close in his heart no matter the situation.”

But it was Sean’s unwavering character that was truly inspirational. “What remained with Sean with any obstacle he faced was his sense of humor. No matter how bad he felt a certain day, he would always manage to make me smile.”

Alex is only a part of an amazing close group of friends that “specifically gets together just about every week now, knowing Sean is there with us,” said senior Christian Dolan.

It took very little for the rest of the class to start showing their support. Dedicating everything from Homecoming and floats, to t-shirts and Raider Bowl, to prom and sporting events, the Class of 2019 stood up for one of their own.

“The atmosphere was electric. The gym was packed with people showing their support…His smile was priceless. What a beautiful person and what an incredible inspiration he was.””

— Ms. D'Amico

Making it their goal to commemorate his life, Sean’s friends and others have worn yellow and the #38 to school, lacrosse games, and cross country meets amongst other events.

In the words of Dr. Rusielewicz, “I think they feel by doing this even though he is not with us in a physical sense, they keep his memory alive in a spiritual sense.”

When Sean passed away last year, the community was truly devastated. Everyone- the friends that visited him at the hospital, the teachers that had gotten to know him for a few short months, his own family- lost a friend, a student, a brother, and a son that day.

Patchogue-Medford knew that while they would not be able to bring him back, they could do everything in their power to make sure Sean’s story lived on.

As Alex describes about Sean’s legacy, “His journey not only changed the school’s dynamics over the past year, but also brought the community together in a way like no other thing could…That’s why Peppermint Park was changed to Sean Dixon Memorial Park in the first place.”

By renaming a local park central to the setting of this story, the community has taken immense thought in commemoration.

 Ms. D’Amico, who works as a Reading and English teacher at the high school, had been working tirelessly even before she met Sean.

She says, “Five years ago, a senior named Ryan Murphy noticed how much everyone loved playing floor hockey in gym class. He wanted to have a tournament and make it a fundraiser for a good cause. I volunteered to be his advisor. At the time, a 10th grade student in the school was battling cancer. We decided that the tournament would be dedicated to her and “Stick it to Cancer” came to be.”

With help from various people including Dr. R., Doreen Bullard, Jeanine Campbell, and Garrett Comanzo, Ms. D’Amico has worked incredibly hard to organize one of our high school’s best nights.

Since the first tournament in 2014, the event has “raised approximately $30,000 in total for the families of high school students who have been afflicted with cancer.”

The 2018 Stick it to Cancer Floor Hockey Tournament was played by Sean’s closest friends in his honor.

Ms. D’Amico begins organizing at the end of October for the February tournament, and has been working on management and fundraising with Mike Lauria, the owner of Rudi’s, AccuHealth, the Silent Night Foundation, and even Syke, M.J., and Jeremy from WBLI.

With the help of these local sponsors, the floor hockey tournament has the chance to make a real difference in the support and fundraising to end childhood cancer.

So, how Sean’s memory will live on?

The high school instituted a scholarship last year in Sean’s name to ensure that his story will live on in future years to come.

Interestingly enough, when asked about what prospects regarding the fight against childhood cancer they hope to see in the future, the responses dramatically varied.

For Dr. Rusielewicz, he believes emotional support is the answer. “The greatness we have is the fight of our humanity and the ability to connect in a human way…I think by spending time with these children, playing games, reading, etc., anyone who gives in their time will be a more humble person for it.”

For Christian, it is the research and the ultimate discovery of a cure to end it all. “With technology becoming more advanced, we are getting closer to a treatment, but still more people need to get involved…Whether it be donating or studying in the oncology field, both these things will influence people to take action.”

As for Ms. D’Amico, she fully affirms her commitment in raising awareness. Alex adds, “[Sean] would genuinely want people to be as optimistic as possible because I know that he spent his time here being the most pure and virtuous person I spent my childhood with.”

Our community may never erase the heartbreak we endured from his death, but we have pledged to forever remember Sean in our hearts, in our minds, and in the way we live our lives. Sean’s legacy reaches beyond the walls of Patchogue-Medford High School. He carried a fire filled with perseverance, ambition, and simply, a childhood happiness. Until there is a cure, we must continue to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer.

So, let’s go and spread the flame.

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