Tuesday, November 10, 2015

#ForceForDaniel and the Spirit of the Internet

For all of the vitriol and vile actions of those on the internet, sometimes it can be a great way for people to come together and do something good.

#ForceForDaniel swept the internet as tens of thousands rallied together to help Daniel Fleetwood. For the past 2 years he has been dealing with a rare cancer, spindle cell sarcoma, which developed into other severe health issues. In September he was given 2 months to live by his doctors and had already been moved into hospice care. It was certain that he wouldn't make it to the end of the year. His wife initially reached out to the internet to try and find press passes to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As press, they would be able to see the film early for reviews and give Daniel a chance to watch the movie before his death.

Friends and family spurred the hashtag along with the Star Wars community at large to seek out Disney and Lucasfilm to grant Daniel his final wish. Even the legends themselves Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher jumped into the action to help out the fan. Disney came through and were able to secure a screening of the uncut version of the film at Daniel's home.

This morning we woke up to the news that Daniel had passed away, just 5 days after his wish was granted. He was able to see the film before his passing.

A number of you are probably reading this and wondering why it's a big deal. A fan got to see a movie before it was released. What makes it special?

To me it's proof that there is still good in this world. That people can use their influence, their compassion, and their charity to do the right thing. That the internet is not this evil place where people spew lies and create chaos - that it can be used as a tool for great things (as intended).

And what you won't see after the media has died down will be the lifetime of memories Daniel's family will have because of this gracious gift. There will be times where they remember Daniel when he was sick and feeling his worse, but remembering the kindness and generosity of people globally to help him achieve his final wish will always overshadow those dark moments. They'll remember his smiles, his laughter, his cheers, his reactions to seeing The Force Awakens. You can't put a value on memories like that.

It reminds me a lot of the charity Kidd's Kids. It's one of the only other organizations I'll support outside of Extra Life. Every year they take roughly 50 chronically and terminally ill children and their families for a week vacation to Disney World - all expenses paid. Again, I know it sounds silly but you have to look at it from the families' perspective. When you have a sick child, your life turns around. They become your only focus. On their medical bills (which are astronomical in the U.S. for even a freekin' X-Ray). On their needs. On their daily activities. Something as simple as getting ready for school in the morning may not be possible due to that child's health. And it's affects the entire family. If there are brothers and sisters they too experience the struggles of having a family member with health problems.

For many of these families they never get a vacation. A number of Kidd's Kids recipients have echoed the same response over the years: This is our first vacation, ever. And Disney is one of those places where every kid should experience it. There's a wonder to the magical kingdom that can not be described. They also have one of the best ratings when it comes to taking care of customers who have health issues or are disabled. So they're trustworthy.

It's those memories that last a lifetime to the family. No matter where they are in the future, what they do, where they go; they will always have that vacation to reflect on and think of happier times.

I was last at Disney when I was 10 years old. I'm in my 30's now...so it's been a while. And I still remember the trip. I still smile when I think about meeting Pluto and my brother constantly trying to pull on his tail when we tried to get a picture with him. I still hate Space Mountain but was determined to ride it because that's what you do at Disney! And I remember the parade at night, and seeing new colors for the first time. Like a giant Crayola Crayon box was dumped on top of the floats. And it's something that my parents remember. Our whole family does. No matter what life may throw at us, we have our time at Disney in our hearts.

That's what these kids and their families experience. That's what Daniel and his family were able to enjoy before his passing. You can't beat memories that will last a lifetime.

So while you ponder if all of this press for one man was worth it, think about your life. Think about the things that you have, and be grateful. Be humble. There are so many out there less fortunate then you. I've been very fortunate and have worked my butt off to get to where I am today. But I know there are others who are not. I had good health (had being the operative word) and I want to do what I can to help out those who weren't as fortunate with genetics in that regard (not in physical appearance, mind you). Which is why I give to Extra Life and run the marathon. Every kid deserves a chance to be a kid. I had a good childhood. It's time to give back and let someone else have one too.

Godspeed Daniel. May the Force be with you and your family.

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