Leukemia patient Ben Cowing (left) met Chicago Cubs hitter Anthony Rizzo (right). (Courtesy Be the Match)

Patients suffering from blood-borne diseases are seeking a miracle: a compatible donor who will give them a bone marrow transplant. In the case of 14 year-old Ben Cowing, his search for a donor has already led to a baseball miracle. Ben, who was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2013, had the honor of meeting Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo, who survived Hodgkin’s at the age of 17. But that’s not the miracle I’m referring to.

Ben was an avid baseball player, before his legs began to hurt and he became too tired to play. This was so uncharacteristic of Ben; someone suggested he get blood work done. The results showed he had leukemia. Doctors immediately started him on chemotherapy and Ben went into remission. Because his form of the disease makes him a high-risk for relapse, Ben will undergo monthly chemo treatments for the next three years.

Ben’s plight motivated his family to seek a life-saving donor. They call their cause, “A Reboot for Ben.” His aunt Rebekah Cowing first became aware of the “Be the Match” program at a college reunion a few years ago, where they were seeking a bone marrow donor for a classmate. Since that time, her family has conducted drives to add 800-900 potential donors to the registry. 

Rebekah, who is the executive director for the local Emmy Awards, also made arrangements for Ben to appear with Anthony Rizzo on a sports memorabilia show called “A Piece of the Game.” Ben is a White Sox fan and proudly wore his Little League cap bearing their logo to the meeting. The Cubs first basement signed items for an on-line auction to benefit “Be the Match.” Over $4,000 was raised to fund more marrow donor drives.

This Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a “Be the Match” drive at the Forest Park Public Library, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Participants between the ages of 18-44, are asked to have their cheeks swabbed to see if they’re a match for one of the many patients on the waiting list. Rebekah is urging Forest Parkers to come out and be tested. 

“You can be the one to save a life,” she said, “It just takes one person for a patient to have a normal life.”

Ben is otherwise a normal teenager who just started his freshman year at Lane Tech in Chicago. Though he had to give up baseball, Ben has become an avid swimmer. He also loves reading graphic novels and playing video games. Rebekah said that Ben has a dark sense of humor which allows him to laugh at tough situations. 

Speaking of funny situations, Ben’s grandfather, Willis Cowing, is a life-long White Sox fan from the Beverly neighborhood. He would not even utter the name of the North Side team in his family’s presence. But Anthony Rizzo’s generosity and support miraculously converted him into a Cubs fan. Willis is only 81, so he hasn’t missed anything. 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.


John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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