Roscoe teen stricken by leukemia spends a day with the Blackhawks
By Adam L. Jahns firstname.lastname@example.org December 23, 2011 11:26PM
Amanda Babyar proudly holds the game-worn jersey given to her by Patrick Kane. | Chicago Blackhawks photos
Updated: January 26, 2012 8:18AM
Amanda Babyar didn’t even bother to look at her itinerary for Friday, Dec. 16. Whatever the Blackhawks had in store for her during her day with the organization would be a dream come true.
In the end, the day turned out to be memorable for everyone involved.
After a restless night, Babyar’s day began with a quick tour of the Hawks’ offices. But before she knew it, she was whisked down into the United Center bowl to watch the Hawks’ morning skate as they prepared for their game against the Anaheim Ducks.
Babyar sat next to the glass as players skated by, waved and smiled. To her surprise, she quickly was ushered into the Hawks’ locker room before their skate concluded. As the players came off the ice, she was there to meet them.
Moments later, she was opening the door to the media, proudly announcing with a glowing smile that, “The room’s open.” As the media worked the locker room, she mingled with Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.
There was more to come too.
She had individual meetings with team president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and other Hawks decision-makers. There was dinner at the Stadium Club and the opportunity to set off the goal horn when the Hawks took the ice for their pregame warmups.
With her own headset on, Babyar watched the second period with radio broadcasters John Wiedeman and Troy Murray in their press-box booth. She was back in the Hawks’ locker room to high-five them after their victory and then observed coach Joel Quenne-
ville’s postgame news conference.
“I was just running on adrenaline,” Babyar recalled.
Kane came through with the best surprise of all: He gave her his jersey from the game.
“That was probably the highlight of my entire life,” Babyar said.
But as much as the Hawks affected Babyar on her day with the team, they were the ones — from the players to the front-office staff — who were left with a lasting impression after having met her.
An amazing character
Babyar, 18, a Roscoe native, attended Hononegah High School in Rockton, Ill. Her mother, Penny Cure, describes her as a “fun-loving girl” who is “personable” and “fearless.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the time she is always bubbly and very positive and walking around with a smile on her face,” Cure said. “That was before her diagnosis and even after. She is true to herself.”
Her diagnosis came on May 7, when a 17-year-old Babyar learned she had leukemia. Two days after the day she refers to as “probably the best day of her life” with the Hawks, Babyar was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was admitted to the hospital, sedated for a spinal tap and
received high intensive chemotherapy treatment. She spent most of the week leading up to Christmas in the hospital.
“One month we might be in the hospital for a week and then have a week off and then go back for two or three days and then have another week off,” Cure said. “Some months it might be four or five days in a row of outpatient chemotherapy treatment. And then other months it could be one day a week we have to go there for chemotherapy, in addition to her having to take her daily chemo meds. The first 11 months are like that.”
But for the 11 or so hours she spent at the United Center on
Dec. 16, you never could tell that by speaking with Babyar. Her smile never left her face as she put them on many others.
“She was really a joy to be around,” Kane said. “It’s cool to see those people who are less fortunate but are sometimes more positive. She was a great girl, and sometimes watching that really opens your eyes.
“Sometimes as athletes we have a job to do, and that’s all we worry about. But at the same time, there’s more important things out there.”
Babyar joined the Make-A-Wish Foundation when she was 17 and that set in motion her day with the Hawks. Her dream is to work in the Hawks’ marketing department one day.
After taking online classes the last semester, Babyar is looking forward to attending the College of DuPage as a full-time student in January. And after her day with the Hawks, she’s more motivated than ever to pursue her dreams.
“I think I would be a little intimidated meeting with John McDonough and other head honchos, but not her,” Cure said.
In her meeting with Bowman and other members of the scouting staff, Babyar didn’t hesitate to share her thoughts on players they should acquire via trade or through the draft.
“She was very inquisitive,” said Bowman, who can relate to her, having endured his own battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “She had a lot of knowledge about hockey. She was very interested in things about a team and running a team. It was neat to see her excitement and energy level.
“The thing I liked that was noticeable is that she always had a smile on her face. She had a lot of enthusiasm, optimism and excitement.
“When you go through difficult times with your health, sometimes that’s a struggle to be that upbeat or positive. For her, it seems like that’s just the person she is. It’s a breath of fresh air, really.”
For the Hawks, that’s the lasting impression of the day.
For Babyar, it’s getting Kane’s jersey, which hasn’t been washed or touched by anybody else.
“I’m still in shock,” Babyar said. “It was probably the best day of my life.
“Coming off an emotional high like that, it’s definitely going to take a couple of weeks to start wearing off. I was telling my dad the other day, Christmas is my favorite day of the year. But I’m not even looking forward to Christmas now because you can’t outdo that.”