Wisconsin Dad Who Had Been Hospitalized for Months Surprises Daughter at School Basketball Game

Randy Knecht tells PEOPLE he plans to return to the game next year with a bigger goal: walking onto the court after having his left foot amputated on Tuesday

A Wisconsin dad found a special way to surprise his daughter and her siblings after he was hospitalized last year.

Randy Knecht has missed his daughter Ana’s basketball games all season long while hospitalized in Washaba, Minn., for various health issues, according to ABC affiliate WXOW and Good Morning America.

The Buffalo City, Wis., man tells PEOPLE he had been in the hospital since the end of August 2023 after having a stroke.

Around that same time, Randy and his friends devised a plan to surprise Ana, 17, with a special visit during one of her high school basketball games. They picked the perfect game: parents’ night.

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Randy, who spent 20 years coaching football and basketball at Cochrane-Fountain City High School, tells PEOPLE that he was determined to accomplish his goal, even as he prepared to have his left foot amputated. And he did just that on Jan. 16.

Also in attendance were Randy’s two sons, 22-year-old Izaiah, who is autistic, and 18-year-old Eyan. Randy shares that it was special for every one of them.

“The best day of my life, hands down, no second close,” the father of three adds.

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Randy has diabetes and has had multiple amputations as a result. He previously had his right leg amputated and had his left foot amputated on Tuesday, two weeks after his special appearance at his daughter’s game.

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But that did not stop Knecht from following through with his idea to surprise his family at the basketball game. Ana wasn’t the only person he hoped to surprise, either.

“It started as a dream and a goal of, can we surprise my family, my boys and my daughter, and even my ex-wife on Parents’ Night?” he tells PEOPLE. “So, what started as a goal, moved on to a reality.”

The plan came to fruition on Tuesday as the players’ names were announced ahead of the game, according to WXOW and GMA. Video of the special moment shows Ana rushing down the bleachers after seeing her father at center court and giving her father a hug while shedding a few tears.

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Though he also experiences vision impairment, Randy was able to see his daughter score during the game. “For that five seconds of my life,” he says, “it was like God said, ‘Here you go. I’m giving you five seconds of sight. Use it to your advantage.’ ”

Next year, Randy plans to return to the same game with an even bigger goal. “Come hell or high water, I’m going to walk on that floor,” he adds.

In the meantime, Randy believes the healing process has already begun. “That’s what I’ve told the kids,” he tells PEOPLE. “Don’t be sad for dad today. Let’s view it as a celebration. Starting tomorrow, we move on with recovery.”

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