Jonny Miree, along with wife Carol and daughter Jessie, are behind TheRockinR, a charity that provides gaming equipment to children in hospitals and hospices. Driven by the tragic loss of their 11-year-old son Reece to an incurable brain tumour, the family saw the comfort that games brought him during his illness and decided to pass the experience on. Now dozens of hospitals across England have TheRockinR gaming carts, which are making a difficult time a little bit easier for sick kids and their loved ones.
Miree, from Wakefield, was in the Royal Marines for around eight years and now does counter-terrorism training part-time. That, he said, often doesn’t square up with the kind of charity he runs in the minds of many; but he and Reece “were always gamers”.
In May 2017, Reece developed double vision. The following month, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour known as DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) and given less than a year to live. For the next nine months, Reece and his family were in and out of hospital while he received six weeks of radiotherapy, scans and surgeries. In February 2018, he had lost the use of his left arm (something his dad notes as a huge blow because it impacted on his ability to play games), and the following month he died.
“Any parent would say the same, but I do believe that Reece had much more to offer,” Miree tells The Big Issue. “My son loved to give, and we were helped out a lot when he was ill.
“So I thought: How do I honour my boy? It seemed obvious to give something back to other children, something he would have liked.” TheRockinR was Reece’s online gametag.
The family was already well aware of how big an impact gaming can have when life is turned upside down. “When he was unwell, his life changed,” his dad says. “The way he looked, his mobility, and that’s where gaming came back into it.