By Matt Lindner, for RedEye
11:52 AM CDT, May 15, 2012
Plenty of Chicagoans were seeing red when the Bulls bowed out in six games in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Lincoln Park's Ximena Beltran saw something different: An opening in Chicago Bulls player Luol Deng's schedule that she's hoping to close shortly to honor her fallen friend.
Beltran, a single 25-year-old who volunteers as a camp counselor at Children's Oncology Services Inc., has created a YouTube video hoping to land a date with Deng to COSI's annual Campfire Ball.
The summer camp-themed event, which will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 19 at Venue One, 1044 W. Randolph, raises nearly $100,000 annually to give cancer-stricken children a summer free of the worries that come with overnight hospital stays and chemotherapy treatments.
"Doing this video and asking Luol, I feel kind of silly but it's an adventure," Beltran said. "I feel like every day I have to live my life for those who can't."
Beltran said it's for those like her friend Aaron, a 17-year-old rabid Chicago sports fan and cancer survivor. The two became friends by chance in 2010 during her internship with the White Sox, when she hooked his camp counselor up with tickets. It was a day for him and his best friend to just be kids.
Aaron's cancer returned to his stomach months after that day at the ballpark, and he passed away.
"It was such a devastating loss to see a kid who was healthy and so full of life and then he was just gone," Beltran said. "Aaron can't have these adventures."
Not long after that summer, Beltran decided to become a volunteer for COSI. Doing so she says, puts life into perspective.
"You think about the problems that you have in terms of paying your tuition or some guy didn't call you," she said. "With these kids it's like, 'am I going to make it to tomorrow? Am I going to beat this disease to have these worries?'--and that's what inspired me to ask him."
This isn't about making a love connection though.
If Deng agrees to be her date to the ball, Beltran said she'll volunteer 100 hours of her own time to his personal foundation.
"I want him to know about this cause so in gratitude, I'd love to pledge my support for his charity," she said.
Her social media campaign appears to be showing signs of working.
She and others have been tweeting at Deng in an effort to catch his eye. Her effort has netted mentions on Twitter from the likes of WSCR's Dan Bernstein and former WFLD-TV Chief Meteorologist Amy Freeze. Deng himself has yet to respond but Beltran says she hasn't given up hope yet.
"I've had friends who have said something to people who are close to him and they're saying it's looking like a definite possibility," she said.
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor
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