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Inspired by his late father, student creates Heaven's Game foundation

When his father died of cancer, Chris Dombroski was determined to make a positive change in the world in his dad's memory. So the junior marketing major started his own foundation to support research in search of a cure. He named it Heaven's Game.

"Heaven's Game Foundation seeks to raise money for cancer research and awareness in hopes

that the millions of people and their families battling cancer can one day prevail," reads the foundation's executive summary.

John Dombroski lost his own fight with colon cancer six months ago, at the age of 53. The foundation was created in his honor, and the name is tied to him as well.

When John was sick, he would often speak of "the game," but which game he was referring to, his family never knew.

John was always a sports fan, so it could have been a reference to many things. After he died, the Dombroskis came across a book in which a girl with a terminal illness kept asking for a map. And, in the story, it turned out to be a map to Heaven. The similarities between the young girl and John struck the Dombroski family. They quickly realized that perhaps John was talking about the final game: Heaven's Game.

Chris loves to share John's story, a tale about a man who continues to inspire his son, family and friends even after his death.

Chris said his father was positive, selfless and humble. He was the kind of man who once, while working in Central America, gave his Christmas bonus to a co-worker for no other reason than that he thought the other man and his family needed it more. Chris looks to his father's example now more than ever.

"I feel like there's a hand that's always guiding me," Chris said. "All the good things that happen I feel like are...because he's kind of helping me out."

Heaven's Game is partnered with the V Foundation for Cancer Research, whose mission is "to make a difference by generating broad-based support for cancer research and by creating an urgent awareness among all Americans of the importance of the war against cancer...through advocacy, education, fundraising and philanthropy," according to its website.

The V Foundation puts 100 percent of direct donations toward cancer research and related programs -- none of it goes toward operating costs. In 2017 alone, the foundation awarded more than $23 million in grants to research programs. The money Heaven's Game raises will go toward funding a similar grant.

"Chris and Heaven's Game benefits by having a responsible steward for the funds they raise, and the V Foundation benefits by having more money to help us pursue our shared goal of finding better treatments and cures for cancer," said Allie Bigelow, the V Foundation representative on the Heaven's Game advisory board.

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Heaven's Game is still in its early stages, but Chris is already planning ways to raise money. The first major event, a golf outing, will take place by the end of this school year, most likely in April. It will be at TPC River's Bend, a private golf club in Maineville, Ohio, where Chris used to work and where he used to golf with his dad.

Chris is seeking corporate sponsors for the event -- a major title sponsor and multiple smaller, secondary sponsors -- and is reaching out to local businesses in Loveland, his hometown, and in the greater Cincinnati area.

Chris anticipates approximately 100 attendees will play at the event. Dozens of people Chris has spoken with, both in Loveland and at Miami, have already expressed interest. There is not a set monetary goal for the event, because the foundation is too new to gauge how successful it might be.

Chris said he would be ecstatic if they managed to raise $5,000, which he thinks is a conservative estimate.

Heaven's Game will do more than put on fundraisers; it will also establish a scholarship in John's name at Loveland High School. John always put a lot of stock in the importance of education.

The specifics of the scholarship are still being determined, but Chris estimates it will be about $1,000 each for one, two or three students.

"If I can give someone a scholarship in honor of my dad, then maybe one day, when they get through their four years, they'll be able to do something similar; maybe they'll be inspired by what we're doing," Chris said.

Support for Heaven's Game has come mostly from Loveland and the Cincinnati area, but Chris has been pleasantly surprised to find interest and guidance from his fellow students and professors at Miami, too. Many people in his life have rallied around this cause and around John's memory.

"Everything he is about is what we are about as a foundation, bottom line," Chris said. "We are who we are because of who he was."

arwinejk@miamioh.edu

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