Carnegie boy with rare gene mutation enjoys 1st Penguins game
Three-year-old Hunter Kramer reached an important milestone for any kid Friday: He attended his first hockey game when the Penguins played the Hurricanes at Consol Energy Center.
Hunter, who suffers from a rare gene mutation known as GRIN1, is considered legally blind, and watching hockey has been one of his best forms of therapy.
Hunter never had attended a game, but the Penguins offered tickets to him and his parents, Beth and Brent, when a story in the Tribune-Review detailed how important hockey has been to the Carnegie family.
“We said from the beginning that we wanted him to be able to experience everything,” Beth Kramer said. “To get him here and see the look on his face was amazing.”
Upon arriving Friday, Hunter was clutching a Matchbox-sized, Penguins-labeled Zamboni a friend at school gave him after learning he would be attending Friday’s game.
Hunter, Beth and Brent went to Hunter’s school, the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in Oakland, dressed as a Zamboni and members of the Ice Crew for Halloween.
Hunter and Brent on Friday posed for a photo inside an oversized goalie mask on the 100 level of Consol Energy Center, and Hunter’s eyes quickly became glued to the video board.
“A lot of kids in his situation don’t ever get to experience this,” Beth Kramer said. “This is pretty cool.”
The in-game entertainment staff recognized the Kramers via video tribute, as did Root Sports.
Hockey is especially appealing to Hunter because of the stark contrast in colors, said his visual therapist, Eric Jerpe.
The GRIN1 mutation renders Hunter unable to walk or talk, and his brain struggles to process the work his eyes are doing. Noises, bright lights and human interaction stimulate Hunter quite a bit.
At home, the Kramers make Penguins games a family affair, sitting Hunter within a few feet of the TV and chanting and cheering together. He recognizes the familiar music and voices whenever the broadcast begins.
When the Trib story ran, the Kramers and the newspaper became inundated with offers for tickets and ways to help.
“The response has been unbelievable,” Brent Kramer said. “It’s what makes us love hockey.”