When the Albany River Rats packed up their pucks and sticks to move to Charlotte, N.C., dedicated 11-year-old fan Zach Bennett told his parents he wanted to make the move, too.
The Bennetts agreed to the 700-mile move and put their house on the market, but it didn't sell. After months of waiting, the hockey team -- now called the Charlotte Checkers -- decided it couldn't leave its beloved fan behind. They bought a new house in Charlotte and gave the Bennetts the keys.
Zack "Bug" Bennett suffers from neurofibromatosis 1, a genetic disorder that affects his nervous system, which has led to the amputation of both his legs. But through his illness he has developed an exceptionally close relationship with the team.
Randy Bennett, Zach's father, explained to the Charlotte Observer:
"They kept him going after his amputation. Hockey players are a different caliber of athlete. These are guys who'd come over, kick off their shoes and sit on the couch to play games with our son."
Checkers' COO Tera Black was amazed at the players' ability to relate to Zach.
"I've been personally extremely touched by our players' ability to turn off the hockey side," she told AOL News.
Everything is starting to fall into place for the Bennetts in their new home. They found a special treatment facility for Zach before leaving Albany. And they managed to sell their house shortly after the Checkers bought them a new one, AOL News reports.
"To see what they've done for us ... it's just amazing," said Randy Bennett.
To help the Bennetts, the team raised money with several fundraisers, including a Facebook campaign. Once the house was bought, sponsors and contractors donated labor and materials to tailor the house to the Bennetts' needs.
"I think a lot of the credit has to go to the people who donated a lot of the money and donated all their time and did all this work for this house. ... That's the side of the story people don't hear about ... all those people who aren't getting interviewed right now," said Checkers Forward Brad Herauf.
Their efforts certainly paid off -- Zach has settled right in.
"This is my new home," he said, content.
Follow the link below to learn more about Zach's illness, neurofibromatosis, or to get involved.