Agape Latte, named after the Greek word for ‘love that seeks nothing in return,’ has been spreading love around campus for 10 years with Espresso Your Faith Week. This past week, Agape Latte highlighted the story of Dorian Murray, the 8-year-old from Rhode Island who battled a rare form of pediatric cancer through cycles of remission and relapse over four years, until succumbing to the disease last March.
The hashtag #DSTRONG, inspired by Dorian’s story and wish to be famous “before I went to heaven,” as he put it, was shared by news stations around the country and in France, Italy, and China. He was immortalized here at Boston College in a video that features BC students encouraging Dorian in his fight, with signs assuring him that he is famous at BC. Dorian’s story was first picked up by Lea Nelligan, MCAS ’18, who saw Dorian’s story on social media.
Something about his story touched her, and she went immediately to the Agape Latte office and suggested they do something to help Dorian’s dream come true. John Walsh, CSOM ’17, a film minor, proposed making a video and started making signs the same day.
Both students reached out to friends around campus, crashed a few dance and band practices, and—with the full support of the students—finished the video in record time. The Murray family appreciated the video’s message of hope.
“We were really making the video for Dorian, thinking of what he would want,” Walsh said. They stayed in touch with the family, eventually leading to the Agape Latte event on campus.
The “Remembering Dorian” event brought Dorian’s mom, Melissa, and the author Nicole DeRosa Cannella to campus to keep his memory alive, share their insights into Dorian’s life, and raise funds for a book by Dorian and Canella. Their collaboration is called Leaving a Mark, and in it Dorian shares his words of wisdom to children and parents dealing with a serious illness.
Dorian wrote the forward to the book, in which he shares his message of hope: “Don’t be afraid … Always believe in yourself. And never give up.” Dorian’s family plans to give 100 percent of the proceeds from the book to pediatric cancer patients and research.
“It’s almost taboo to talk about pediatric cancer,” Melissa Murray, said. Due to the minimal attention paid to the illness and lack of proper funding, research in pediatric cancer is behind that in other forms of cancer.
Dorian is still passing on his faith and strength through the Dorian J. Murray Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to finance new research and help other families like the Murrays, as well as his GoFundMe.
“Remembering Dorian” added another story to the large, meaningful collection Agape Latte has been collecting over the past decade. The week focused on individual faith as well as coming together as a community. Agape Latte’s message of hope is shown in the “Life is a Dance” video, also produced by Walsh, with the dance assistance of Kimberly Newton, MCAS ’18. The video, narrated by Rev. Michael J. Himes, S.J., features 11 BC dance groups and the improv comedy group My Mother’s Fleabag.
“Dance groups are great as a metaphor,” Walsh said. “They have such a joy and spirit about them.”
The video was meant to capture the spirit of Agape Latte and its ability to bring people together from all walks of life. The ultimate goal for Walsh, his countless collaborators, and Agape Latte as a whole is to get people to go home and continue the conversations beyond what Agape Latte started at these events. The “latte” part refers not only to coffee but also to the intimate, comfortable coffeehouse vibe organizers aim for.
“[Agape Latte] allows people to find meaning for themselves,” Walsh said. “I get to be a facilitator for that.”
Photo Courtesy of Church in the 21st Century