Carlsbad fourth grader Kennedy Kraus finally got a chance to meet the man who saved her life from half a world away.
Kraus is now a fun-loving, healthy ten year old who loves soccer, karate and horseback riding. But just a couple years ago, her life was in serious danger. Doctors diagnosed her with severe aplastic anemia. She desperately needed a bone marrow transplant, and was getting transfusions a couple time a week.
“She was in and out of the hospital. She couldn't go to school. She was isolated from her friends and her family, even a common cold could be devastating on her system,” explains her mother Terri Kraus.
Eventually, the bone marrow registry found a match for the then eight year old.
"They didn't tell us anything about him except he was a 47 year old gentleman that was a perfect match," her mother remembers.
The family figured the donor who saved Kennedy's life might share their European ancestry. They just never imagined he would live in Europe.
But twelve years later, when Benz turned up as a match for Kennedy, he did not hesitate to donate.
"I hoped that I would be the right donor for her," he said, with the help of a German translator.
Now, two years later, Benz and his wife traveled from Germany to the United States for the first time in order to meet Kennedy and her family.
At the City of Hope's 33rd annual "Celebration of Life" ceremony, Benz greeted Kennedy first, hugging her, then crouching down to shake her hand. Soon after, Kennedy’s parents embraced the man who saved her daughter’s life.
"Oh, I couldn't say anything but just give him a hug. I couldn't stop squeezing. It means so much, people don't know how much one act changes so many lives,” Terri Kraus said after the meeting, ”it's just tremendous to put a face to the man who saved our daughter's life. He's part of our life forever."
"Emotionally overwhelming, it's very very overwheling for me," Benz said after the meeting.
The families plan to spend several days sightseeing together around Southern California.