DETROIT – It's a program that helps families escape cancer for at least a little while, giving children a chance to be kids and forget about all the chemo treatments.
What makes the story even more special is that the idea began with a 12-year-old Detroit boy.
Imagine having six rounds of chemotherapy, for 96 hours at a time, every three weeks. That's what Alex Craven went through when he was just 12 years old after he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the bone, stage 4.
"I knew it was serious but not as serious as it was," Alex said. "Later on, I found out if I had walked, I could have broken my legs."
Alex spent much of his summer at Children's Hospital.
"Its difficult," said James Craven, Alex's father. "You feel helpless. As a parent, you don't really know what you're going to do or how things are going to play out."
Time moved slowly for Alex.
"You would look out the window and see how nice it was and wish you could just go outside," Alex said.
Then Alex had an idea. He brought his Xbox with him during chemo treatments.
"It helped a tremendous amount. The weeks flew by when I was in there," Alex said. "There was a couple kids that didn't have much to do, so I'd have them play with me and give them one of my extra controllers. We were just acting like kids, and we weren't in the hospital."
"It provided an escape for him," James Craven said. "He didn't have to sit and think about being hooked up to a chemo all day long. He didn't have to think about, 'Is my hair going to fall out?' All he had to think about was, 'I just want to get through this level.'"
Alex went through all those chemo treatments. The good news is he has been in remission for four years. But that didn't stop him from wanting to help other children.
"Just because I'm done doesn't mean other kids are," Alex said. "They still have to go through stuff, so why not help them?"
"So we came up with the idea Alex's Arcade, because it was his idea," James Craven said. "So we came up with the idea of: Why don't we provide game systems for the oncology department or the infusion center as a way to give back?"
Recently, Alex and his dad were back at Children's Hospital making another donation. In all, through their nonprofit, they have raised enough money to buy 12 gaming systems. They help children like Mahdi, 15, who has an autoimmune disease. He said the Xbox Alex donated has made things easier.
"When I see them playing, it just makes me happy that they're just like normal kids now," Alex said. "It's like nothing is wrong."
Alex's Arcade is always trying to raise funds so it can donate more gaming systems to help pass the time for children with cancer. Alex and his dad donate to the Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation benefiting the oncology and hematology department.