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Nationwide Children's, CBJ partner to host families battling rare disease

A pair of families from Sweden has bonded over hockey and the challenges their sons face

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Given their choice, Christian Lundin and Andreas Hellqvist wouldn't have any need to come to Columbus. 

The two fathers and natives of Sweden, near Gothenburg on the country's southwest coast, have forged a bond over a difficult situation. Lundin's son August, age 11, and Hellqvist's son Linus, age 8, both have Batten disease, a group of rare inherited neurological conditions that can cause vision loss, progressive motor and cognitive decline, and seizures. 

That has meant several trips across the Atlantic Ocean to Nationwide Children's Hospital for treatment. It's not fun, but if there's any good news, it lies a few miles to the west in the form of Nationwide Arena. 

The ability to watch NHL hockey has been a saving grace for August Lundin, as the former youth goalie and his family have been able to attend games throughout the years during his trips to Columbus. 

Friday night, Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Blue Jackets paired up to give the Lundins and Hellqvists the chance to attend the game against the Red Wings, with seats in the lower bowl so the kids could have a view of the action despite their condition, as well as plenty of CBJ souvenirs to remember the trip. 

"We really appreciate it, and the kids really appreciate it," Christian Lundin said. "We are really thankful. It really means a lot to (August). The whole visit to the states and all the stuff he's gone through has been rough. But coming here (to the game), it gets him on that plane to come here. The hockey game is really important. 

"He had a really tough day today with his surgeon, which he managed. When he got here (to the arena), he said it was all worth it." 

While young Lundin, with his customized CBJ jersey, has been to around 15 games during his trips to Columbus, it was the first for Linus Hellqvist. While the 8-year-old was surprised by the cannon that blasted after each Columbus goal, it was clear the kids were enjoying a night at a game being kids. 

"He's really excited," Andreas Hellqvist said. "He was a little bit shocked by the cannon. Everyone at (Nationwide Children's Hospital) is wonderful. They are looking after us all the time." 

The two kids were greeted Friday by a video message from fellow Sweden native Gustav Nyquist, who also has signed the back of young August's jersey. There's also a signature from former CBJ forward Alex Wennberg, another Swede, but it's clear the Lundins have become true Jackets fans over the years. 

"(Wennberg) moved to Florida," Chrisitan Lundin said pointing at the signature, "and plays with the Panthers, so we don't like him anymore," he added with a laugh. 

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