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NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State basketball player Bobby Hunter has formed a friendship with a 3-year-old boy who has autism.
The senior guard met Max Garman at a summer charity event when they went on a walk together. Since then, the pair have been talking, texting and going on outings together.
"We talked the whole walk," Hunter told The (Bloomington) Pantagraph (http://bit.ly/144fIkp ). "I was with Max the whole time. Afterwards we went to get food, and he wouldn't leave my side and I wouldn't leave his side. After that, we were attached, and since then he's been a big influence in my life."
Max's mother, Katelynn Garman, said she cried when she saw her son walking around and holding hands with Hunter. The Garman family has Illinois State season tickets, and they communicate with Hunter almost every day. Hunter tries to spend time with Max, taking him to a museum or going to a park.
"Max has a very apathetic type of autism," Katelynn Garman said. "He doesn't choose to interact with people very often. He was instantly drawn to Bobby."
Visiting with Max has made Hunter not take things for granted in his own life, he said.
"Just being part of someone who has to go through something so severe every day kind of makes me realize what I have is a blessing," Hunter said.
His time with Max and involvement with other community projects has made Hunter one of 98 NCAA Division I players nominated for the Allstate National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team. Team members will be named in February.
"Bobby is great with kids and great with people," Illinois State coach Dan Muller said. "He has a really good heart. He's a smart kid and good teammate, but he's just a really good person."
Katelynn Garman has seen that for herself, saying the best thing about his relationship with her son is that Hunter "treats Max like any normal kid."
Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com
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