No coincidences of the Hart(ley’s)
It’s been quite a whirlwind few months with lots of highlights, but none bigger than what occurred one week ago today. Last fall we chose a “organ donor” theme for Dawg Bowl XIII and that put in motion the biggest “Cappy Magic” surprise I’ve ever attempted. It began when my brother (Nigel) connected with his donor family last fall. The Hartley’s were rocked to the core on April 9, 2021 when they lost their beloved Sean in a motorcycle
accident. Sean was active, fit, lived life to its fullest, loved deeply, was friend to many, and also was an organ donor. The Hartley’s tragic loss gave my brother a second chance at life, a chance that he will never take for granted.
Over the last several months Nigel and Kelly have talked to the Hartley’s on many occasions looking forward to the day they would finally meet in person. With nearly 2,000 miles between us that day seemed unlikely in the near term, but that’s where “Cappy Magic” comes in. I first spoke to Ryan (Sean’s older brother) in December. Although we had just met on the phone I floated the idea of a couple family members coming to Colorado and surprising Nigel at his first ever Survivor Game. A few days later Ryan shared the idea at the Hartley family Christmas gathering. Ryan then called me on Christmas Day and tearfully told me the entire family (18 strong) would be coming the Mile High City!!! The plan was in motion!
The next part was really tricky as I had to keep the life changing trip a secret from virtually everyone. The family arrived in Denver on June 23rd and were met at the airport with the keys to the Dawg van. On Saturday the Hartley clan arrived at the Edge and Cindy whisked them into a private room. It was there that I finally met my brother’s miracle family. It was an emotional meeting with lots of tears and lots of hugs as I did my best to honor this incredible family. At that point the arena was bursting at the seams and still only a first full of people knew of my surprise.
Once the Survivor Game festivities began Cindy was able to sneak the family down to the ice level. Somehow it all remained under wraps despite 18 emotional people all wearing Hartley jerseys with 49 (April 9th) on their backs. I then took the mic for the ceremonial puck drop with Nigel and fellow transplant recipients Patrick Donnelly and Lily Palan. Following the puck drop I shared the importance of “checking the box” and possibility of saving a life. I also shared the fact that these now connected families were facing completely opposite emotions of elation and devastation. I then said to Nigel, “some day we will meet the family that saved your life…….please turn around, because that day is today!”
My shocked and emotional brother then proceeded to greet and embrace all 18 members of the family. Ryan then asked Nigel to switch jerseys and put on a #49 Hartley jersey in honor of Sean. Once the puck dropped it took less than a minute for Nigel/Sean to score the first goal! And in fitting fashion, Nigel/Sean then scored the last goal to give the white team the victory!
Postgame included a private meeting with the two families where the Hartley’s presented Nigel with a heart necklace containing Sean’s ashes and Cindy presented Sean’s mother with a personalized stethoscope with Sean’s initials on it. The family then one by one once again listened to their Sean’s heart.
Now the “no coincidences” part. As I was writing this piece I received a text sharing that today would have been Sean’s 40th birthday. Happy birthday Sean, I look forward to one day meeting you on the other side. God Bless.