CLEVELAND, Ohio — Meet Harper Christner. Today is her birthday.
"I'm 6," says the girl from Mentor. She's at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for a very special Cleveland Monsters game.
Harper fell in love with the sport of hockey after spending time watching her older brother Chase play. She was diagnosed with McCune-Albright syndrome — specifically polyostotic fibrous dysplasia — after her birth following an initial diagnosis of neonatal Cushing's syndrome.
Harper has been through numerous procedures and treatments early in life for conditions including adrenal gland removal, precocious puberty, hyperthyroidism, excess growth hormones, and low blood phosphorus. Additionally, her femurs are severely affected, and she has had to undergo multiple corrective surgeries on both legs to straighten the bones.
Due to her condition, Harper stopped walking before her second birthday, but loves hitting the street hockey ball with her mini sticks from her wheelchair. After years of cheering her brother on in the rink, she began to ask how she could get on the ice to skate like Chase.
Together with the Cleveland Monsters' sled hockey team through Adaptive Sports Ohio, the Monsters and A Special Wish Cleveland were able to give Harper her first experience on the ice with Chase and her own sled during a private practice at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse at the end of March.
A natural on the ice, Harper continued her journey by signing a contract and becoming part of the organization. Monsters general manager Chris Clark did the honors.
"The Cleveland Monsters agree to employ Harper Christner as a skilled hockey player," Clark declared.
The one-day contract earned her a salary of one dollar and signing bonuses that included a dress from the movie "Frozen" and many Monsters and Columbus Blue Jackets items. She even has her own jersey, and her parents were beaming at the sight.
"I am so excited to have a daughter who is on the Monsters," her dad Ray said. "I cannot tell you the joy in my heart." Mom Darci Christner added,
"I am so proud of you, Harper," mom Darci added. "I know you've been wanting to go on the ice for so long with your brother. Now look: Your little dream's coming true!"
After watching warmups, it was her moment to shine as she took to the ice with her new teammates. Her name boomed throughout the FieldHouse as she was introduced.
"With a fresh contract, just signed today, a forward from Mentor, Ohio, No. 1, Harper Christner!"
A big wish come true for the newest, littlest Monster.
"This is the best day, birthday ever!" Harper said with a big smile, her laughter melting together with that of her family.