NILES, Ill. — Ten-year-old Ben Krueger loves playing basketball and being on the court with his best buds.
On Monday evening, Ben came to practice with no clue he was about to be given the night of his young life.
“I was just so surprised when they came in, like, this can’t be happening,” Ben said.
Benny the Bull and Chicago Bulls players Javonte Green and Alex Caruso surprised Ben and his teammates, an exhilarating encountered put together by Advocate Children’s Hospital, who thought Ben would be the best fit for such a thing.
Family tells WGN that at just five months old, Ben was rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke and seizure that left him with long-term damage.
“Left-sided weakness. His left side kind of shut down on him,” said Kenny Krueger, Ben’s dad and basketball coach. “Lots of doctor’s visits. His PT, OT, speech. Some surgeries. He has come a long way.”
Krueger said Ben was back in the hospital as recently as December after experiencing another stroke, but added watching the Bulls play has helped him cope during intense treatments.
“He’s so resilient,” Krueger said. “He works so hard and we’re thankful that we get this opportunity.”
That resiliency has left an impact on Ben’s doctors too, who said they admire how he has fought his health setbacks with the same tenacity as he plays hoops.
“To see where he has come from, he couldn’t walk,” said Ryan Geslani, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist who works with Ben. “He had braces and all these other braces, he’s out of his braces and it’s looking really great.”
After a quick pick-up game, Green and Caruso personally invited Ben to join them on the Chicago Bulls’ team plane and come to Philadelphia to watch them play the 76ers later this month on Mar. 20.
It’ll be Ben’s first game watching the Bulls in-person.
“I’m happy yeah,” Ben said. “I hope the Bulls win [in] Philadelphia.”