The force is with Red Deer’s Anakin Suerink.
The Star Wars loving 16-year-old headed to Disney World Monday after the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted his wish Saturday afternoon at the Scott Block Theatre.
“I want to bawl right now, but I don’t have enough water in me,” Anakin said after hearing he was going to Disney World.
The Grade 12 student at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School has been a Star Wars fan his whole life.
“Star Wars is so freaking awesome,” he said. “I mean, ask my dad. He named me after it.”
Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and other characters from the film series were on hand to tell Anakin he’d travel to the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, where he’ll meet Kylo Ren and other characters.
Anakin had one message to everyone who helped send him to Disney World: “May the force be with you all.”
Elizabeth Eckert, Anakin’s mother, said her son has “had challenges since the day he was born.”
“He wasn’t supposed to live, and for three years, we were told he wouldn’t, to not get attached and to make every day great. We’ve been doing that for 16-and-a-half years,” she said.
Eckert said Anakin has been diagnosed with a number of health problems, including epilepsy and scoliosis, and has two tumours in his brain. He was born at one pound, three ounces and has gone through 16 surgeries in his lifetime.
“He’s missed out on so many things that little boys should be able to do and it’s been so hard, but he’s a trooper. Every morning he wakes up and he’s happy.
“He’s the best kid ever,” she said. “Every moment with him there’s laughter, there’s love, there’s inspiration.”
Eckert said she’s honoured Make-A-Wish granted her son’s wish.
“This day is a gift for every day we have gone through challenges with Anakin,” she said. “This is his biggest wish ever … and for him to have that means more than any words will ever say.”
“His life has been Star Wars,” she said. “He’s used Star Wars to get through things.”
Red Deer’s Joe Hittel, 83, raised the money to fund Anakin’s trip to Disney World. Hittel raised $14,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation at the second annual Rope for Hope event in Red Deer.
Rope for Hope featured dozens rappelling down the 13-storey Stantec building in downtown Red Deer to raise money for the foundation.
When Hittel rappelled in July, he didn’t know who the recipient of the money would be. He said he’s happy the money will send Anakin and his family to Disney World.
“I was so pleased to meet him,” Hittel said. Seeing Anakin’s reaction “just about brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad I could make that wish (possible). Hopefully, if I do it again, I can send two kids through the Make-A-Wish program.”
Hittel said he hasn’t decided if he will participate in the 2019 Rope for Hope event.