If you think standing on the Chicago Bulls’ home court during an NBA basketball game is nerve-wracking enough, imagine doing so while wearing a blindfold and being led by the team’s mascot, “Benny the Bull.”
Then imagine taking off your blindfold to see your son, a pilot in the U.S. Navy, who’s been deployed and whom you have not seen in nearly two years.
That is exactly what happened to Sandy Miller last Saturday night thanks to some clever thinking by her son, Navy Lt. Kyle Hanford, the USO and the Chicago Bulls organization.
“We had expressed an interest in helping them with [the USO] a reunion, and then they came to us with this incredible opportunity to help a family of Bulls fans,” Susan Goodenow, a team spokesperson, told ABCNews.com.
The thrilling reunion came during the first quarter break in the Bulls home game against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center.
Lt. Hanford, 28, was on a six-day leave from his station aboard the USS George Washington in Japan and decided he wanted to surprise his mom in a “special way,” according to team officials.
He came directly to the stadium from the airport and clued only his dad, Neal, in on his secret. His sister, Natalie Miller, and mom, Sandy, all of Naperville, Illinois, thought Sandy, who didn’t even know her son was in the country, had been picked to try to sink a basket for cash while blindfolded.
The fans packed into the arena, Goodenow says, had been clued in that something big was going to happen, so instead of long lines at the concession stand during the break in action, everyone was glued to their seats.
“After the mother’s blindfold was removed the place erupted,” she said.
In a video posted to the NBACares’ YouTube page, Sandy Miller can be seen covering her face with her hands, putting her hands over her heart and then running to hug her son, just as you would expect a shocked mother who hadn’t seen her son in one-and-a-half years to react.
As far as Bulls officials know, Saturday’s reunion was the first time any such reunion has occurred during a Bulls basketball game.
The occasion was so momentous that even the players, deep in the action, took their eye off the prize, for a moment at least.
“The players, coaches and staff from both the Bulls and Pacers were applauding when the reunion happened,” Goodenow said.
What could make the reunion even sweeter for Hanford and his family, all die-hard Bulls fans? Their home team won the game, 87 to 84.