WEST FARGO — Sixteen-year-old Ben Merck of West Fargo has been showered with community support since he was diagnosed with ALS, but this week, another group let him know that he is not alone in his fight against the disease.
After a slew of doctor's appointments Thursday, Nov. 21, Ben relaxed with a new phone. But little did he know, a group was preparing to bring him something he desperately needs as ALS begins to impact his ability to move.
Former Moorhead hockey standout Matt Cullen, who recently retired from the NHL, and his wife Bridget, have started another arm of their Cullen Children's Foundation to help people in situations like Ben's. The mission of their new endeavor, Project Grace, is "angel gifting" to families who need something as simple as a lift chair.
Their lift chair delivery Thursday coincided with Ben's birthday.
"This is just so amazing. The Cullens have been so generous to bring this chair for Ben. It's hard for him to get out of a regular chair now," said Ben's father, Mark Merck. "We've noticed the weakness is getting more pronounced. This chair is going to make life so much easier for Ben."
The Cullens have done a lot of charitable work in the community over the years, and now they are finding new ways to give with their Project Grace initiative. Ben is the project's first recipient.
"(We're) just happy to be able to help out a tiny bit, and get to know Ben," Matt Cullen said. "He's a pretty special kid, as I think we've all gotten to know."
To top it off, the foundation presented one more birthday surprise: A signed Fargo Force hockey jersey for Ben.
Project Grace is holding a special gala called "An Evening of Grace" to raise funds for the program so it can give more angel gifts to kids in need.
The event is being held Dec. 6 at the Bluestem Amphitheater in Moorhead. Tickets can be purchased on this website.
For more information on the event and how to donate, visit Cullyskids.com.