When 11-year-old Alex's wish granting volunteers asked him what he wished for, they never expected his response. Alex, who is battling Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a medical condition that weakens his muscles and restrains him to a wheelchair, wished for world peace.
Alex made a wish to help humanity using robots. He wanted to know that someday robots will help people around the world, including his mom.
"[I hope there will be] a robot strong enough to get me in and out of my wheelchair and carry me so that my mom does not have to all the time," he said. "Mom is not real big and I am getting bigger."
Alex's robot wish experience was a multiple-day adventure, full of surprises from the moment the limo arrived at his front door. During his ride, Alex received an important message: His mission, should he choose to accept it, was to gain enough robot experience in the next two days to become an honorary Xbot team member.
First stop on his mission was to go to SeaTac Airport to help Port of Seattle Police to operate real robots to help retrieve a 'suspicious' briefcase. Alex maneuvered his crime-stopping robot with tact and finesse.
"It was just fun to watch Alex be able to do these things that he would never otherwise be able to do," said his mom, Katie.
Then, it was off to Seattle Children's Hospital, where Alex receives treatment. But, today he wasn't there for an ordinary doctor's visit. Instead, he worked with several doctors to master his surgical skills using the DaVinci Si Surgical System robot.
Next stop was the University of Washington BioRobotics Lab, where Alex explored the latest advances in kinetic technology.
While Alex was busy maneuvering the latest robotic technology, a surprise guest appeared: Darth Vader! His evil nemesis had heard of his wish for peace, and challenged him to a duel of the forces of good and evil at Red Square on the UW campus.
Moments later, complete with a police motorcade, Alex's limo pulled into Red Square. Alex was met by Darth Vader, Storm Troopers and at least 1,000 onlookers, many of whom cheered and hoisted signs in the air that said, "Alex Rocks!" and "Peace Alex!" He was then informed that he only had 10 seconds before Darth Vader was going to set off the detonator—blowing-up Red Square and the hundreds of students, volunteers and fans.
"Ten...nine...eight..." But when the countdown got to "one," the detonator set off the song "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas! Suddenly, the sea of people began moving together in a robot-inspired dance.
"It was just completely over-the-top," said Katie, who shared that, to her, the flash mob was by far the highlight of Alex's wish. "I think other people were having just as much fun as we were. It was really neat."
After the dance, Alex was off in his limo with robots, Star Wars characters, and hundreds of fans waving goodbye. It was time for Alex to unwind with his family with a dinner at the Space Needle and a good night's rest in the Presidential Suite at the Westin, Seattle.
While the city was just waking up, Alex had already spent his morning operating a robot to help thwart terrorists and keep Seattle safe at the Bellevue Police Station.
It wasn't long before he was back in his limo and headed to Microsoft to work with team Xbot, who had requested help from him to work on their top secret robot for the "For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology" as part of the FIRSTRobotics competition sponsored by Microsoft. Alex later had the opportunity to attend the FIRSTRobotics competition, where he was made an honorary member of team Xbot.
"The people were just amazing," said Katie. "They showed us equipment that was really cool and they were so kind and let us play with stuff and test out robots. They were fantastic."
The Lasting Impact of a Wish
When asked about his favorite part of his wish experience, Alex won't give an answer because he says he can't choose just one part.
But according to his dad, Ty, one of the best things to come out of Alex's wish was seeing a new confidence in his son. "Alex was very shy, but his wish has opened him up. He was more comfortable being in front of people, more outgoing, and was stepping up to the task. It gave him confidence and it gave him drive."
Alex's wish was an experience that his family shared together. "Make-A-Wish® makes something that otherwise seems impossible, possible," said Katie. "They gave us an experience that we never would have imagined, and they just gave it to us happily."
To help spread Alex's message of peace, you can share his story with your friends and family.
Special thanks: Wish-granting volunteers, Ken Kieffer & Jim Johnson; The Port of Seattle Police, with special thanks to Sergeant Jason Coke; Seattle Children's Hospital, with special thanks to Dr. Meehan & Dr. Lendvay; University of Washington - Professor Howard Chizeck (BioRobotics); University of Washington - Howard Nakase (Facilities); Danny Tran - Darth Vader; Bellevue Police BOMB Squad, with special thanks to & Captain John Manning & Corporal Dion Robertson; Microsoft; Team Xbot (led by Donna Lew); Bayview Limousines; The Seattle Westin; The Space Needle; Tri-Film Productions; Scott Harder of Mill Creek Multimedia; Eric Rust of Eric Rust Photography; Garlic Jim's