Monica Hicks said that her husband, Leo, always believed in “paying it forward.” She said this attitude was just another example of Leo’s caring and compassionate personality.
“You know, when he was diagnosed… he was just so positive. And I mean, it was infectious,” said Monica. “He kind of led our family and he said to me, ‘You know, worse things have happened to better people and, you know, we’re gonna fight and we’re gonna do this together.’”
Leo was diagnosed with AML, an aggressive form of leukemia, in 2017. Monica said that, because of an organization called Be the Match, Leo was able to receive a much-needed bone marrow transplant.
Be the Match is an organization that matches bone marrow donors with recipients of the same type. Matching bone marrow types are often not found in patients’ family members, which means they commonly need an outside donor to survive.
Monica said Be the Match bought them something precious: time.
“So in November, he received a stem cell transplant, and although it didn’t cure his leukemia, it gifted him another year of life,” said Monica. “So that’s another birthday for my children, another wedding anniversary for me, so we were just so grateful.” Leo died the following year.
Monica said that when Leo received the transplant, he promised her that when he beat AML they would pay it forward to Be the Match by bringing awareness and sharing their story. Although Leo was unable to beat AML, Monica has continued to make good on his promise.
At a pickleball tournament at the Paseo Club in Valencia last week, Monica and her foundation partner, Mitra Suchinski, doubled their goal and raised over $12,000 for Be the Match through her organization, Dink for a Cause.
Pickleball is a game similar to tennis but uses a wiffle-esque ball and small racquets. It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. as it’s accessible to a range of ages and athletic skill levels.
Monica said she first played the game during the pandemic, after meeting Suchinski, and after seeing its rise in popularity, and enjoying the game herself, she thought it might be a good way to carry on Leo’s promise.
“This has been a labor of love. I feel so fortunate and blessed that we are able to pay it forward and Dink for a Cause. We started Dink for a Cause because of Leo, because of what happened in his wish to pay it forward,” said Monica. “So to have this legacy for him and for my children, as well, just to see that, you know, bad things can happen, but you can, you know, rise from those ashes, you can turn it around.”
Monica said the purpose of this tournament is to help anyone, even if it’s just one person, as a way to pay it forward.
“I feel so fortunate and blessed that we were able to do this for him. You know, the story just can’t end that he passed away. You know, it doesn’t end there. And if we are able to help one person with this drive, it would be incredible,” said Monica.
To learn more about Dink for a Cause, visit bit.ly/3xLkOlR. To learn more about Be the Match, visit bit.ly/3zCNhvO.