La Crosse, WI (WXOW) The Bena family of Onalaska is loyal to the Loggers. They rarely miss a game. The family enjoys taking in almost any baseball game; but the Bena's are drawn to the Loggers and one player in particular.
When the La Crosse Loggers play at home close to 3-thousand, self-proclaimed, Copeland Crazies fill the stands. Among them, the Bena family, cheering wildly in section BB. The Bena's and baseball go together like beer and brats; during a Wisconsin summer they are inseparable. Win or lose it doesn't matter much. The Bena's believe the most important part of baseball, like life, is a how you play the game. A lesson Audra Bena taught her family not so long ago.
"There is never a moment where she's not part of all of us." Linda Bena says. Audra laughed and loved through 30 rounds of radiation. Never bitter, never questioning why, even on the morning the inoperable brain tumor stole the 15-year old's life.
"Audra's room was just as it was. The dresser still have her things on it. Her clothes were still in there. And to clean out her room just because wasn't a reason. I couldn't do it just because she's no longer with us." 2 years passed before a friend pushed the Bena's to host a Loggers player for the summer. The player would have to stay in Audra's room. "I was holding one of her last blankets and I thought what are we doing. I felt like I was cheating on Audra."
Tim assured his wife it would be ok. Linda knew he was right the moment Mississippi pitcher Alex Gunn walked through her front door. "He gave me this smile that he has and I was like this is right. This is right." And just like that, a southern stranger became a member of a Midwest family. "I treat him just like I do Tim and Brock. Hey, I don't mind folding underwear if you're ok with it."
When they're not at the ballpark Alex spends his free time hanging with the Bena's son Brock and at the kitchen table with Tim and Linda. Baseball is usually part of the conversation. So is Audra. "There's a lot of things I've learned. She loved people. She was just a great person to be around. I hate that I missed her."
Opening their home to Alex was the first of many steps the Bena's have taken this season of healing. They've also met new friends, hosted parties, and opened their broken hearts. "I think she's smiling down on us saying you guys did a good job here. Its absolutely what Audra would have wanted us to do. No question about that."
Baseball brought this family some closure. "He's (Alex) our summer son and hopefully our forever son. He'll always have a special place in our hearts." Loving Alex gave them strength to cope.
If you're interested in hosting a player next summer... You can contact the loggers' office at 60-8-796-9553.
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