Sick boy in­spi­ra­tion for Cubs’ star

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Jay Cohen

Kyle Sch­war­ber signed a base­ball for Camp­bell Faulkner, and Faulkner gave Sch­war­ber a green wrist­band. Twin acts of kind­ness, and a friend­ship was born.

The slug­ger with the big Ohio heart, and the sunny boy with a life-threat­en­ing ill­ness. A bond that made each of them bet­ter.

Some 1,700 miles away from Wrigley Field, Faulkner and his fam­ily are soak­ing up ev­ery mo­ment of Sch­war­ber’s come­back from a ma­jor knee in­jury.

The 10-year-old Faulkner — “If you ask him, he’s two hands,” his mother Carrie says — stays up to watch his buddy in the World Series, and Sch­war­ber proudly wears his Camp­bell’s Crew wrist­band while he tries to help the Chicago

Cubs to their first cham­pi­onship since 1908.

“He’s a kid who can al­ways put a smile on my face,” Sch­war­ber said.

Faulkner has a rare mi­to­chon­drial dis­ease. His body doesn’t know how to use food and oxy­gen prop­erly.

Doc­tors knew some­thing was wrong with Faulkner just days af­ter he was born. The youngest of Carrie and Shane Faulkner’s four chil­dren never cried and was never hun­gry.

On Day 4, he was la­beled “fail­ure to thrive,” Carrie Faulkner said. He got his first feed­ing tube in his stom­ach when he was 4, and a sec­ond tube at 7.

“On the out­side he looks per­fect,” Carrie Faulkner told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a phone in­ter­view. “On the in­side, it’s just a train wreck, it’s a dis­as­ter in there.” So when Carrie Faulkner heard about what Sch­war­ber said af­ter one of the big­gest games of his life, she just lost it. Mo­ments af­ter Sch­war­ber hit two RBI sin­gles in Chicago’s 5-1 vic­tory over Cleve­land in Game 2 on Wed­nes­day night, he was asked about his green wrist­band, and the son of a re­tired Ohio po­lice chief jumped on the ques­tion like a belth­igh fast­ball.

“Yeah, Camp­bell Faulkner, he’s a kid that I met down in Ari­zona. He’s got a rare ge­netic dis­ease, and I met him my first spring train­ing,” Sch­war­ber said. “Re­ally young, smart kid, and he’s just al­ways got a big smile on his face.”

Sch­war­ber kept right on go­ing.

“We stay in con­tact through email. He’s a smart kid, man,” he said. “The kid’s, I think, got an IQ of like a col­lege kid for be­ing so young. That tells you how smart he is. And that’s a per­son you want to look up to right there.”

A day later, Carrie Faulkner was still floored.

“I don’t even have words,” she said Thurs­day. “I have tears . ... Oh my heav­ens what an amaz­ing man to think of my son at that mo­ment.”

For Camp­bell, it was no big deal. Af­ter all, they’re friends. “It made me feel good, and I knew that he was think­ing of me,” he said.

Faulkner and Sch­war­ber met last year dur­ing spring train­ing. Faulkner was a guest of an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Steve’s Dream, which pro­vides tick­ets to Cubs’ spring train­ing games to fam­i­lies.

The Faulkn­ers were tail­gat­ing when Sch­war­ber stopped and signed a ball for Camp­bell, who re­turned the fa­vor with the wrist­band that made Sch­war­ber a mem­ber of Camp­bell’s Crew — a sup­port group for Faulkner with its own Face­book page and Twit­ter feed .

Sch­war­ber promised to wear the green band, and the con­nec­tion only grew from there. Sch­war­ber got Faulkner his own Dinger Bat. They ex­changed au­to­graphed pic­tures and started email­ing each other.

“He’ll just give me, like, sup­port, and he’ll say he’s pray­ing for me,” Faulkner said. Faulkner was at Chase Field in April when Sch­war­ber got hurt in an out­field col­li­sion with Dex­ter Fowler, sprain­ing his an­kle and tear­ing two lig­a­ments in his left knee. He was ruled out for the year, just three games into the sea­son. A crest­fallen Faulkner was quiet when he got home. He took his hat off, put it in his lap and prayed. Then he sent an email to Sch­war­ber point­ing out he had “a lot of doc­tors” and of­fer­ing to help the slug­ger get in touch with them. “Camp­bell lit­er­ally went into pro­tec­tive mode to take care of Kyle,” Carrie Faulkner said.

And that’s when that one fleet­ing mo­ment in the heat of spring train­ing re­turned to Sch­war­ber in a ma­jor way. As Sch­war­ber em­barked on the long, dif­fi­cult pro­cess of re­hab­bing a ma­jor in­jury, he found in­spi­ra­tion in the ex­am­ple of his pre­co­cious friend in Ari­zona.

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