Sunday, February 16, 2014


February 3, 2014. I finally get the email I’d been hoping for.

Welcome SL 68888 to the MidSouth Garrison & 501st Legion!

It only took twelve days from my official enlistment date to attend a troop for someone I know directly. His name is Sonny, he’s seven years old, and has been diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma (bone cancer).

The relatively short version is this: in the fall of 2013, Sonny hurt his leg. Nothing major at the time, doing something kids get to do for fun. If memory serves, horseback riding? (Honestly not sure at the moment.) The slight injury happened over the weekend, but on Monday it was still bothering him to the point that his parents took him to the doctor. The medical staff did their exams and x-rays and all the usual stuff. What they found was a fracture in his shin, which seemed odd for such a minor bump that he had taken. Further investigation revealed a tumor in his leg, which allowed the bone to break so easily. Devastating news for any parent.

The doctor’s immediately laid out a plan of attack. Chemo to shrink the tumor, other tests and exams to determine of the cancer had spread, and a bone graft to fix the bad part of the bone. To date, there isn’t any other cancer in his body, and the tumor had been shrunk. Somewhere in that time frame, I got in touch with Sonny’s father, who I used to work with.

Sonny is a bit of a Star Wars fan, and when I got in touch with his dad, I let him know that I have an incredible group of guys and gals here with the 501st, and that we’d love to come see him in costume, if it would be beneficial to Sonny. His dad thought it might be a good thing, and basically put us on retainer.

Over the Christmas break, we had tentative plans on several occasions to come see Sonny, including Christmas Morning at his house if his parents thought it would help. The best news to come from those tentative visits was that Sonny was doing so well at the time, a cheering up wasn’t really necessary. I’d happily cancel any and every troop in the future if that could be the reason. Sadly, I know that won’t be the case…but that’s why we do what we do.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Sonny’s BIG surgery was scheduled. The tumor had shrunk to the point the doctors needed to remove that bad part of his shinbone. To do that, Sonny would need both bone and skin grafts on his leg, which also meant an extended hospital stay, partially in ICU right after surgery. We had tentative plans to see Sonny on a Thursday, but those fell through. So we rescheduled for the following Saturday to troop for Sonny. On February 15, the Troop for Sonny finally happened.

For a short while, I thought the troop would be just me, Lord Vader. Scheduling conflicts arose with most of the other members, and weather threatened to keep others away. But my guys came through. The troop ended up with Vader, two TK’s, and a female Imperial officer. Not too shabby for basically 24 hours notice. True, we’d been “planning” this for a while, but when we finally got the go ahead from Sonny’s dad that he needed a Star Wars day, that’s really all the time we had.

Sonny loved every second of it, and his little sister dug it as well. With any luck at all, they will be special guests of the 501st and Midsouth Garrison at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention. They have both been officially invited, but Sonny’s treatment schedule going forward will dictate whether he can make it. (There are tentative plans in place to march from the Con to Sonny’s hospital to see him, if he happens to be in the hospital for treatment that Sunday morning.)

I heard from Sonny’s dad after we left that Sonny was literally dancing in his bed after we left; he LOVED the visit. And I also heard that the first words from his little sister on Sunday morning were “We met the REAL DARTH VADER yesterday!”

We were not supposed to visit other kids while on our troop for Sonny, but if any parents or kids wanted us to stop in or take pictures, we were allowed. Somehow, we lost our way back to our changing room (that was 25 feet away), and got stopped by some more patients who needed some Star Wars cheering up. We were more than happy to oblige, and brought more than a few smiles to the Children’s wing.

Months of planning. An hour or so invested in driving, meeting, dressing. All for a half hour visit to cheer the kids up.

Worth. Every. Second.