The Force is strong with this one.
Ten-year-old Bo Velarde-Chan, a self-proclaimed Star Wars fan, received a surprising sendoff at Gerald R. Ford International Airport a few weeks ago. “Make-a-Wish Michigan” granted Bo and his family a “wish,” which happened to be a Disney cruise.
When the family arrived at the gate to board their flight to Orlando, an announcement was made over the intercom.
“Attention Southwest Airlines friends and passengers,” said Tara Hernandez, who is the marketing director at Ford Airport. “We have a special arrival; the Star Transporter has just landed in Grand Rapids.”
At that moment, the door to the jet bridge opened and out walked eight costumed characters from the "Star Wars" movies. Bo was stunned, and was able to spend close to 30 minutes interacting with the characters, and posing for pictures.
“This was such an incredible surprise, and it’s touched me so much,” said Kinn Chan, Bo’s mother. “We’ve never really experienced this kind of support in such a public way.”
The fourth grader from Kalamazoo suffers from an extremely rare illness called Microvillus Inclusion Disease.
“He’s one of 18 people in the world who has this disease,” Kinn said. “We’re told there are only 150 cases of this disease in all of medical literature.”
The disease is life-threatening, which is why Bo qualified for a “wish” from Make-a-Wish.
“I’m guessing if I have a little quiet time in my cabin [aboard the cruise] that one of these 'Star Wars' characters will come bursting in and do something Star Warsy,” said Bo Chan, right before he boarded his flight.
Little did Bo know, his journey to a galaxy far, far away was just beginning, and it was far, far away from ending.
After Bo’s story aired on WZZM that same evening, it went viral, and managed to catch the eye of Mark Hamill, who portrays the character Luke Skywalker in the "Star Wars" movies. About a day later, Hamill tweeted the story out to his 1.6 million Twitter followers, with a special message for Bo written in the tweet:
“All my best wishes to Bo Velarde-Chan – the Force is With YOU Bo, & Will Be Always! (Is that “Star Warsy” enough for ya?) Your Pal, mh.”
All my best wishes to Bo Verlarde-Chan- The Force Is With YOU Bo, & Will Be Always! (Is that "Star Warsy" enough for ya?) Your Pal, mh https://t.co/4bF57lomcA— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) February 5, 2017
“Several of our friends were texting and calling us right before we boarded the cruise ship asking if we had seen that Mark Hamill Tweeted Bo’s story,” Kinn said. “We were in complete shock.”
While Bo and his family were cruising in the Western Caribbean, "The Force" seemed to still be working in the Bo’s favor. After several direct messages through Twitter with Hamill, he agreed to meet Bo on Skype when Bo returned from his vacation.
That’s when WZZM began collaborating with Make-a-Wish Michigan and Hamill to schedule the best day for the two to meet via Skype.
Hamill, who lives in southern California, said he could do Monday, Feb. 20, at 11 a.m. PST (which is 2 p.m. EST).
Bo, along with his mother, Kinn, and Christy Schulte from Make-a-Wish Michigan, came to WZZM, which was agreed upon as the venue to host this amazing moment for Bo.
Right at 2 o’clock, Mark Hamill popped up on the screen, and was very eager to meet and talk with Bo, who was equally as excited to meet Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker.
“Hey Bo, I saw your video of you going on the plane when all the 'Star Wars' characters came out,” said Hamill, as the Skype conversation with Bo began. “That’s must’ve been a big surprise; that’s why I sent you that tweet.”
Bo came armed with a list of eight hand-written questions, which were very wide-ranging. Bo asked Hamill what his favorite food was, as well as his favorite flavored ice cream.
“I love chocolate ice cream,” Hamill said to Bo. “There’s so many [flavors] I like.
“It may be easier to ask me what kinds of ice cream I don’t like.”
Bo responded telling Hamill, “My favorite [ice cream] is pistachio and mint chocolate chip.”
Bo then asked Hamill if he’s done any other acting besides the "Star Wars" movies. Hamill told him he’s been doing cartoon voices for decades, in particular the Joker, in the "Batman" animated series.
Hamill even did the Joker voice for Bo, which Bo found very entertaining.
The two then began talking about Star Wars. Bo asked Hamill what it was like to ride a Tauntaun, and if Tauntauns were real.
“[Tauntauns are real] if you believe in them, and I believe in Tauntauns” Hamill told Bo. “It’s like Han Solo said, ‘It’s true… all of it.’”
It was at this point in the conversation where Bo’s line of questioning got serious. He unleashed two questions to Hamill that every "Star Wars" fan would like answered.
“Does Luke die in [The Last Jedi]?,” Bo asked.
Hamill smiled, then answered by saying, “Well, you know, we have to promise to keep secrets; we’ll get in big trouble with the bosses.”
Bo then followed up by asking Hamill, “Who’s Rey’s father?”
Hamill said, “I don’t know; again, you’ll have to wait.
“There’s a lot even I don’t know, so I’m wondering the very same questions.”
The Skype chat between Bo and Mark Hamill lasted 13 minutes, and ended with the most “Star Warsy” saying there is.
“May the Force be with you, Bo,” Hamill said.
“You, too,” said Bo.
“Thanks,” said Hamill.
When asked afterwards what it was like to talk to Luke Skywalker, Bo said, “It was awesome!”
“I have kind of always thought that Bo might actually have The Force,” Kinn Chan said, jokingly. “The doctors told us that he wouldn’t likely live to see one year and, if he did, he would have severe developmental delays.
“Not only has he lived, he’s kind of a prodigy.
“For him to have this opportunity to talk to Luke Skywalker was simply surreal.”
“This is fully what it’s about for Make-a-Wish,” said Christy Schulte, Communications & Public Relations Manager for Make-a-Wish Michigan. “Our wishes are about hope, strength and joy to our wish kids and families, and to see how excited Bo was to talk to Luke Skywalker, was incredible to see.
“Mark Hamill has done so much for other Make-a-Wish kids, helping grant their wishes.
“For Bo to get the chance to meet him on Skype, as a ‘Wish Enhancement,' was a bonus he’ll remember for the rest of his life.”
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