As It Happens

'Getting Mike to The Lighthouse': Online gamers make a dying man's dream come true

Mike Mariana desperately wanted to get to a hard to reach level in the game Destiny before he died from cancer. So a group of online gamers made it happen — and raised some money for charity along the way.

Online gamers make a dying man's dream come true

Mike Mariana with his son and daughter, now 19 and 17 respectively. (YouCaring )
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Mike Mariana just wanted to get to The Lighthouse before he died. 

The 43-year-old father of two from Pennsylvania was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013. While he was home sick, he became obsessed with the internet game Destiny, a space-faring adventure he could play online with friends to escape the harsh realities of his illness. 

"The thing was his cancer got to a point where he was pretty much disabled in a lot of ways, which wouldn't allow him to work. So while his kids were at school and his girlfriend was at work, I mean, he just had to hang out at the house,"  Mariana's friend Tim Baron told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Within the game, there's something of a holy grail, available only to the best players. It's a special location called The Lighthouse and to get there you and your teammates have to win nine multi-player matches in a row — a feat known as The Trials of Osiris.

"It's game mode where you're playing against other people across the country and we could never get there and achieve that goal together. We just weren't as good or skilled as the people we were playing against," said Baron, who lives in Arkansas.

The view from The Lighthouse, a hard to reach location in the online game Destiny. (Destinypedia)

Meanwhile, Mariana's health was deteriorating fast.

"He kind of started talking to me a little bit less about what was going on with his health, so I kind of knew something was up," Baron said. "And when he did talk to me about it, he would say that he was busy and couldn't play and chemo and stuff was making him sick."

Baron had been playing online games with Mariana for more than a decade — Baron lives in Arkansas and Mariana was in Pennsylvania — but the two had never met in person. Still, Baron considered Mariana a dear friend and wanted badly to cheer him up.

So Baron called up another of their Destiny teammates and they started hatching a plan for "getting Mike to The Lighthouse."

Charity live stream 

They decided to reached out to Ben Lupo — a popular Destiny streamer who is well versed in The Trials of Osiris. 

"We are hoping that you would be willing to get Mike there for us. It would mean so much to him to not only get there, but to have a chance to play with a person such as yourself," they wrote in a message, which was shared on Reddit.

Mariana joined Lupo and his elite teammates and they set out to get Mariana to The Lighthouse — in a 24-hour live stream to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Not only did they achieve their goal, but they raised $40,000.

"If people watch the video, they can actually hear him laugh," Baron said. "It was a very good thing. I mean, we all got to hear our friend laugh and have a good time and, I mean, we'll always have that."

Mariana died a little over a month later, on Feb. 21. A YouCaring page has been set up for his family.

The moment Lupo, Mariana and the rest of the team arrive at The Lighthouse in the 24-hour charity live stream. (DrLupo/YouTube)

His fiancée, Christy Morehouse, told the VICE video game site Waypoint that what Baron and the other Destiny gamers did meant a lot to Mariana.

"The last time he was in the hospital … I would look over and Mike would be holding his hands up like he was using a controller," she said.

"When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was playing his game. Even when he was sleeping, he dreamed about Destiny."

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