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Cammy Babiarz is a Chicago Blackhawks fan. She’s five years old. She doesn’t have the ability to communicate verbally or walk, as she was born with Rett syndrome.
But thanks to Duncan Keith, she’s now a goal-scorer.
Her mother, Jackie Corrado Babiarz, planned on submitting a photo of Cammy and a pink leg brace with a Blackhawks logo to the team’s #WhatsYourGoal social media campaign. She asked her daughter which Blackhawk she’d like to meet if her entry was chosen.
Jackie and Bill Babiarz watched her eyes as they read off the Blackhawks roster. Cammy communicates with her eyes. She looks at them for a “yes,” and away for a “no.”
Jonathan Toews? No look. Patrick Kane or Patrick Sharp? No look.
Duncan Keith? “She gave us a resounding smile, her eyes locked on us,” said Bill Babiarz.
So Jackie submitted the request: Her daughter wanted to meet Duncan Keith and score a goal.
The Blackhawks reached out and invited them to the team’s practice facility.
Only Cammy’s parents knew what was going on. Cammy knew they were going to the rink, but not meeting a Blackhawk. Her grandfather assumed it was part of a documentary project.
Then Duncan Keith walked through the locker room door.
“She’s five. She loves the Hawks, but we were a little worried she might not recognize him off the ice,” said Bill Babiarz. “But she was star-struck.”
She and Keith met and talked. Cammy uses a video screen called a Tobii that has sensors that read her eyes. When she fixates on a square with an image on it, it then links to other squares so she can add to her thoughts. For example: If she stares as “food” then it will link to 32 other options for food and drink; she’ll stare at another, and then more options appear.
So she was able to converse with Keith. But what about hitting the ice for that goal?
Cammy’s parents have a harness that they wear that click into a vest and connect at the feet, so she literally walks with her mother or father as they walk.
They assumed the Blackhawks would simply push her wheelchair on the ice for the goal, but the team asked them to bring the harness. Keith wore it, taking away the foot plates so her feet could hit the ice in skates.
She skated down with Keith, wearing her own helmet and jersey, her hands gripping the stick as they scored a goal together.
“Super nice, regular guy. We spent so much time with him,” said Bill Babiarz.
Cammy was given two jerseys, a signed stick and a duffle bag of Blackhawks keepsakes. And a video highlight of a lifetime.
Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmenal disorder that affects girls almost exclusively. One in every 10,000 girls born have it.
Last year, he ran from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan to raise awareness. Soon, Cammy will spend 60 days in Boston on a clinical trial to find new treatments for it.
Bill Babiarz hopes this moment with Duncan Keith raises further awareness of the syndrome ... while making Cammy's hockey dream come true.
“It’s a day we’ll never forget,” said Bill Babiarz.
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