Community Gathers to Make a Child’s “Star Wars” Wish Come True

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Wish recipient Christopher Wheeler celebrates with the Make-A-Wish team Saturday night.

IMPERIAL — Saturday was a night not-soon-forgotten for young Christopher Wheeler and his family, who was surprised to encounter a full “Star Wars”-themed reception at the Imperial County Fire Department, where it was announced that he and his family would be going to Disney World and Universal Studios at no expense. The event was organized by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with various donors in the Valley.

“The heart of his wish was that he wanted to be a Jedi,” said Lydda Ochoa of Imperial, a Make-A-Wish volunteer who helped coordinate the evening.

Wheeler was diagnosed with common variable immune deficiency (CVID), a condition that left him susceptible to seizures and memory loss. Seizure episodes have often involved assistance from the Imperial Fire Department, and the resulting bond between the boy and the firefighters who assisted him suggested that it would be fitting to celebrate Christopher’s special night among his friends at the fire department.

“His heroes are these fire fighters,” said Ochoa. “They’re the ones who respond when he has his problems at home or at school.”

“We’re sending him to Disney World to meet his heroes from Star Wars, but we wanted him to have a special day with his everyday heroes here,” she said.

It was earlier this year that Christopher’s mother, Michelle Wheeler, was prompted by several friends to reach out to the San Diego Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which has granted about 200 wishes to children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions, 15 of whom have resided in Imperial County. After submitting Christopher’s medical information, Mrs. Wheeler was promptly contacted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“Within three hours, I got the call that Chris had been accepted and he was going to have a wish granted,” recalled Wheeler. “It was absolutely amazing.”

Chris was asked to start writing down things he liked and putting them into his Make-A-Wish box over the next few months. After surveying his interests, it was clear the two things that most excited Christopher: all things Star Wars and flying on a plane (Chris had never flown before).

So the plan was decided, and on November 1, Chris and his family will be flown to Disney World in Florida to enjoy the theme park, including the Star Wars-themed area of the park, where he will also get the opportunity to meet “Kylo Ren” actor, Adam Driver. When asked what he was looking forward to most in the coming months, Christopher didn’t hesitate.

“The next [Star Wars] movie coming out,” he said, as well as his first experience “to go on a plane.”

Yet Saturday night’s celebration was more than just an announcement of the Star Wars dream-trip. Friends and family, donors and performers all arrived early to surprise Christopher with the good news.

Although Christopher was told by his mother that they would be stopping by the fire department to drop off cookies for his firefighter friends, the boy was soon greeted by the sound of a full marching band playing the Star Wars theme song as the flag team twirled light sabers in sync with the music. A flashing fire truck pulled out of the fire station garage with the Make-A-Wish team and Christopher’s friends and family sitting on top, waving to Chris.

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The festivities continued as a “storm trooper” pineapple cake was presented to Christopher, designed and donated by Nitzia’s Heavenly Cakes. The firefighters also gave him an up-close demonstration of several of the emergency vehicles, and even helped Christopher don the full attire of a fire fighter, face mask and all.

As the night came to a close, Chris cheerfully played as his mother continued to process the events.

“It’s amazing and overwhelming,” said Wheeler as she looked at Chris surrounded by firefighters and the Make-A-Wish team. “All of them are absolutely wonderful.”

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