Chicago Cubs host Advocate Children’s Hospital group at spring training

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“It was amazing. I can’t believe I just did that.”

That’s 12-year-old Kyle Munch, just moments after taking part in a team stretch and shaking hands with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and other star players and coaches from his favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.

Kyle is one of four Advocate Children’s Hospital patients from the Chicago area who spent time with the team at Spring Training in Mesa, AZ., yesterday, playing catch on the field and posing for photos, before a surprise-of-a-lifetime capped the experience.

Manager Joe Maddon signed the group to one-day contracts with the team.

“You guys are very welcome to be here; it was great to have you here today, and hopefully this is something you can frame and put up on your walls,” Maddon said.

The four kids – who are battling cancer and heart health issues – got to bring along their best friends and family members as part of the all-expenses-paid trip, which was a surprise they learned about just last week. The Cubs, Advocate Children’s Hospital, American Airlines and Sheraton Hotels, the Official Hotel of MLB, sponsored and organized the behind-the-scenes experience.

“It made me not think about all the pain I have and just worry about having fun with the Cubs and meeting them,” said Izabella Marin, an 8th grader from Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood. She said that meeting Anthony Rizzo was a highlight of the trip. “He was a survivor of cancer, and he inspires everyone.”

“It means a lot to me, considering that I’ve been through so much throughout treatment,” said Zach Lum, a 17-year-old from Sleepy Hollow, Ill., who is battling bone cancer and underwent an above-the-knee amputation last year. “It’s incredible to truly see that they actually do care about those who are less fortunate.”

Zach’s mom, Donna Potts, said he was on cloud nine.

“It’s just unreal. He thought that Make-a-Wish trips would be phenomenal, but this was even better because he didn’t even ask for it. It was just offered, and it’s just amazing.”

When asked what advice she’d give to other parents going through the same challenges…

“You focus on their health and getting them back to being 100 percent again, and you get so embedded in the treatment sometimes, and you’re overwhelmed with all the medical details that sometimes you have to step back and just live life again as full as you can and remember there is baseball, there is sun, there is fun.”

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About the Author

Adam Mesirow
Adam Mesirow

Adam Mesirow, health enews managing editor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. A media relations specialist with more than seven years’ experience securing high-profile media placements, he loves to tell a good story. Adam earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. He lives in Chicago and enjoys playing sports, reading TIME magazine and a little nonsense now and then.