Boy with rare genetic disease inspired by friendship with Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber
This story was originally published by Tiare Dunlap on People.com.
After six months of battling back from a devastating injury, Kyle Schwarber drove in two runs to help his team earn a 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday.
The dominant performance from the 23-year-old – who relearned to walk mere months ago – inspired inspired awe and admiration from Cubs fans everywhere but perhaps no one appreciated the effort more than 10-year-old Arizona boy, Campbell Faulkner.
“We couldn’t be more proud of how Kyle has come back,” Campbell’s mom, Carrie Faulkner, tells PEOPLE. “It’s a huge inspiration for our son who struggles every day. But when he sees Kyle going through his struggles and still succeeding — you couldn’t ask for a better role model.”
Schwarber has sported the wristband during games to honor his young pal, and he opened up about their bond when asked about the accessory following his team’s victory Wednesday.
“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.”
“You know, that draws your attention to him,” he continued. “He’s living life to his fullest, even though he’s got something to overcome…that’s a person you want to look up to right there.”
For Campbell, the feeling is mutual. As his mom explains, Campbell has been looking up to his friend Schwarber ever since the two first met in March 2015.
“We were tailgating after the game and a bunch of players came out and signed a few autographs and walked away,” says Carrie. “But Kyle stuck around and gave autographs to every single person.”
Schwarber signed Campbell’s baseball, and in return, Campbell offered him the green wristband.
“We just hit it off,” Schwarber said during Wednesday’s press conference. “Talked about baseball, talked about him to see how he was doing. And, you know, he just was a good kid. How could you not like him? He’s smart, he’s intelligent, and he lives life to the fullest.”
After that, the two kept in touch via email. When Kyle returned to Arizona and found out Campbell’s birthday had just passed in March, he planned a whole day of surprises for the young boy.
“Kyle took Campbell on a tour of [Cubs’ spring training stadium] Sloan Park and he helped him with his batting stance, too,” Carrie says.
Campbell’s disease makes it difficult for him to stand or walk for long periods of time and requires him to be hooked up to feeding tubes, but that hasn’t dampened his determination to play baseball like his hero. He currently plays in a special needs “miracle” league.
“Kyle means to world to Campbell and whenever Campbell is having a bad day, he thinks back to his birthday with Kyle,” Carrie says.
But this support is far from one-sided.
Campbell was in the stands when Schwarber tore two ligaments in his knee during an April game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. As soon as Campbell got home, he sent Schwarber an email with offers to get his own team of 13 doctors to help put the slugger back together.
“After Kyle got hurt, Campbell wrote him and said, ‘My surgeon can put you back together and my physical therapist can help your muscles get strong again,’ ” Carrie recalls. “He was in full-on rallying mode.”
While Schwarber had his own team of doctors to get him back into playing shape, the 10-year-old’s offers to provide medical assistance did not go unnoticed.
“He’s a smart kid, man,” Schwarber told reporters. “The kid’s, I think, got an IQ of like a college kid for being so young. That tells you how smart he is.”
Now, preparing for Game 3 in a tied World Series has left Schwarber with little time for emails – but Campbell doesn’t mind one bit. Just watching Kyle on TV is enough to light his face up with joy.
“Campbell’s happy to sit on the couch with his Cubs blanket and his popcorn and watch the games,” Carrie says. “He likes to say he’s watching his friend at work.”
Wednesday night’s performance was one for the record books (literally). But there are still 5 games to go, and while the whole Faulkner family wants nothing more than to watch Kyle win a ring, win or lose, he’ll always be a hero in Campbell’s eyes.
“Campbell says Kyle wears a baseball uniform for his job but under that baseball uniform is a cape,” Carrie says. “He’s Campbell’s Superman.”