- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

OAKWOOD, Ill. (AP) - A 12-year-old central Illinois boy who suffered a stroke is U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, calls Jackson Cunningham of Oakwood his “personal hero.”

Cunningham wrote to Kirk after the senator’s debilitating stroke in 2012 encouraging him to “never give up.” Soon they met face to face and Kirk invited Cunningham to visit him out in Washington. They’ve since developed a close bond and encouraged one other to persevere through the doubt and pain of recovery.

Their improbable bond has warmed hearts and inspired fellow stroke patients.

Kirk says in a blog post that Jackson “is one of the reasons I’m at the State of the Union today.”

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