Be wary of skipping past the comments to our files. For one thing, we think we are regularly on the receiving end of some of the most thoughtful and insightful comments of any hockey blog. For another, there are moments when the sentiments of readers’ hockey hearts are more deserving of publishing than our own . . . as with the instance of a mother discovering a photo published here of her son receiving a hockey stick from Oskar Osala, and her deciding to enrich the lives of OFB bloggers with her family’s fabulous story.
“What a thrill!¬† We are the parents of the young Bears fan who got the stick from Oskar on Friday night. Our son is an obsessed Bears fan, and was over the moon when Oskar handed him that stick. My husband and I are long time Bears fans, and some of our first dates were at games at the old barn. We were at the last game there and the first at Giant Center.
“Friday night was such a great time for us, because we all just love our hockey, but for our family it means a little bit more.¬† Please indulge me with a little story about why we love the Bears, and look forward each season.
“Our son (the one in the photo) was born in Guatemala. He was still there waiting for our adoption to be completed when he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 9 months.¬† He began treatment while still in Guatemala, and continued treatment when he came home to us in October of 2003, just after his first birthday. We were thrilled when his Oncologist at Hershey Medical Center told us that despite the fact that he was on Chemo, we could still take him to the Bears games. Our son LOVED hockey from the first minute. It was hysterical to watch him so focused on the game. He was so funny trying to move around and watch around those “rookies” who would get up during play. We were able to continue to take him to all of the games.
“He was treated with Chemotherapy until July of 2004. We thought all was clear until March of 2006 when he had a local recurrence of the cancer and once again had to start Chemo, and this time also with radiation. He treated that [treatment] from March until August of 2006.
“We were fortunate to have many friends and fellow hockey fans who arranged at that time for Bruce to meet Frederic Cassivi, and from that first meeting our son had found a favorite. The Cassivis were so good to us, and over the years we have come to call them friends. We were able to make every home game of the playoffs and of the Calder Cup Final, in between lengthy stays at the hospital. Just after the Calder Cup win, we were able to go to the party at the Giant Center, and the photos we have of our son and Frederic with the Cup are ones we will treasure forever.¬† Our son had no hair and was obviously sick, but his smile is the only thing you notice in those photos. Frederic and his family came to visit Bruce in the hospital, and so did Coco the Bear. I have to tell you that we felt incredibly special to be part of such a wonderful Bears family.
“Bruce is now 2 years off treatment and is doing fantastic. He is healthy and doing everything that an almost 6-year-old should be doing, and more.
“We try to get to as many practices as we can, and we love going to the Arena because we can be so close to the players.
“The bottom line is that we also love that old Arena . . . my husband and I love it because it means a lot to us to have started our lives together at the games, but we especially love it because our son LOVES it even more . . . he can climb all over the seats and get right up next to the glass to tease with the players and try to pick out the ones he already knows.
“And every now and then he can make a connection with a player like Oskar . . . a young kid himself who took the time to stop and say hello to a little hockey fan, and to offer something that to Oskar was just one of his sticks, but to our son it was magic . . . a link to a player that means so much . . . and a moment that brought tears to his mother’s eyes.
“Thanks for that, Oskar . . . and thanks to the Arena for the memories that were and the new ones that are still being made.”