Max Make A Wish Event

March 7th 09


MISSION REPORT: March 7, 2009

Naperville Presbyterian Church – Naperville, IL

EVENT COORDINATOR – Cheryl “Whinter” Whitaker (TI/TB-3127) - MWG

Max Lacewell is a darling, energetic little 5 year old boy that loves his family, Star Wars and Legos. But you would never suspect that this little fireball is also a very sick little boy. Max has DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma); a form of brain cancer that currently has a survival rate of only 10%. But let me tell you, if anyone can beat this terrible disease, IT WOULD BE MAX! And I think that anyone that was at his event would tell you the same thing.

The request came in to the Midwest Garrison back in December of 2008 from Janet Schenone (a good friend of Max’s Mom), asking for a few Star Wars characters to come out to Naperville, IL to make an appearance at a party/fundraiser for this little boy that has brain cancer. His name was Max and he really wanted to meet some “real” Star Wars characters. Well, the call went out loud and clear. Within an hour of my volunteering as Event Coordinator for this party, we already had close to 10 people signed up for it! The next day I contacted Janet to introduce myself and to start planning what turned out to be “The best party ever” (in Max’s own words).

The first thing we had to figure out was the event date. We only had a small window to work with because Max was starting his first round of chemotherapy and they wanted to plan the party at a time that he was feeling “good” enough to enjoy it (in between chemo rounds). We were told that the party would need to take place some time in late February or in the month of March. This would be the “in between” time. The date of March 7th was decided on, and what a day it was! It was perfect.

We had gotten the news back in early February that Max’s first round of chemo resulted in his tumor shrinking 30%! What wonderful news! Now it was time for Max to take a break from the treatment and begin building his strength back up again before the next round. What a trooper! According to Max’s journal (written by Max’s mom, Leanne) at, most days he was full of energy; laughing, running and playing with his big sister, Addie, as well as having lightsaber fights with his dad as often as he could. This journal was how we were able to learn more about Max, as well as how we were able to come up with some of the ideas played out at the event.

Another detail that had to be figured out was how to run the fundraiser. We decided to do a Star Wars themed Fun-Fair and Raffle. The Fun-Fair itself was free, but donations were encouraged and welcomed. The raffle tickets were being sold for $1.00 each and could either be split up to go towards many different items, or to better their chances for a specific item, they could put all their tickets in for one item. ALL proceeds went to , an organization that funds research and protocols for DIPG and other forms of pediatric brain cancer.

Once the plan was finalized for the Fun-Fair/Fundraiser, everything seemed to fall into place and move into fast-forward mode. We had 7 different “stations” to plan for; Face Painting, Youngling Coloring Station, Hot Thermal Detonator Game, Temporary Tattoo Station, Imperial/Rebel Blaster Academy, Photo Area & the Raffle Station. The next several weeks entailed lots of preparation work and many more members of the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion and Jedi Assembly signing up for the event with great enthusiasm and selflessness. So many came forward to donate their time, as well as several items for the raffle, prizes for the games and many gifts for Max. Words cannot express how touched I was by everyone that was a part of this special day for Max and his family.

Patrick Higgins (TX-3697) was Darth Maul for the event, which turned out to be the most important character of the day. During the planning stages, Leanne told us that Max’s Make-A-Wish wish was to battle Darth Maul. Well, I actually welled up with tears when I found that out. This was one more thing that we could certainly make happen for his special day. Patrick went all out for Max. He shaved his head the night before the event and raised funds for in honor of Max. St. Baldricks is another organization that raises awareness and funds to cure kids’ cancer by supporting cancer research and fellowships. He also painted the most amazing oil painting for Max. It featured the battle between Max (portrayed as a Jedi) and Patrick as Darth Maul. It was fantastic!

Another member (Phyllis “Schph Gochi” Schulte / TK/ID-1951) made a beautiful Jedi robe for Max, as well as had a custom Ultrasaber lightsaber made for him for his battle against the Sith Lord. He looked like a true Jedi Padawan that was ready for anything! He was even made an Honorary Member of The Jedi Assembly!

We were also honored to have Nathan Bantz (SL/TK/TB-9135) of the Japanese Garrison join us. But before he left Japan for the States just days before the event, he generously offered to donate a Stormtrooper helmet for the raffle, as well as made 2 custom acrylic plaques for Max.

Bob Kohn (Chewbacca - MWB, Rebel Legion) gave Max a Battle of Yavin Medal, John “Fitz” Fitzsimmons (TK-6442) brought Max an assortment of patches, Mike Riemma (TI-1659) gave Max a .45 scale Darth Maul MR lightsaber as a reminder of his triumphant battle, Kevin Skoglund (RL & IN-6951) donated a life-size Yoda for the raffle, and many of the prizes for the games (as well as some of the raffle items) were donated by Mike Plesha (SL/TK-356). These are just a few of the many physical items that were donated by the attending (and non-attending) members of the 501st, RL and TJA. Actually I would say that just about everyone had something that they brought for the Raffle. THANK YOU, EVERYONE!!! One other item we gave Max was a framed 501st 10-year Anniversary poster, signed by all the attendees that day. But I think the most important contribution was the mere presence of everyone that attended.

The Fun-Fair portion of the event was held in the 65’ x 65’ squared gymnasium at the Naperville Presbyterian Church, while the Raffle/Donation portion was held in the large hallway that led into the gym. We were lucky to have that much room available to us, as there were at least a couple hundred kids and their parents or adult chaperones in and out of the event throughout the 3 hours that it lasted. We had close to 40 costumed characters there and every one of them always seemed to have at least a child or two close by at all times!

Max made his entrance riding on his sister’s back. His eyes were wide as saucers as he was greeted by Stormtroopers and then made his way into the gym. You could tell he was scoping out the place to find someone; and that someone was Darth Maul. We kept Maul behind closed doors until we thought Max would be ready for his big surprise “battle”. That didn’t take long. Max was very excited and full of energy; and after about a half hour of playing at the “Blaster Academy” station and meeting a lot of the other characters, Max was going to have his Make-A-Wish wish granted.

The tattoo-faced Sith Lord made his big entrance and walked straight toward the small, wide-eyed 5-year old. Max wasn’t hard to find in the crowd. He had already been given his new Jedi robe and his new blue lightsaber was glowing brightly. He was completely ready for this battle. He even made the first strike against Maul. The crowd gathered around them, watching in awe and cheering Max on. After a few minutes, the battle was over and Max was victorious! Afterwards the two opponents shook hands and Patrick (aka Darth Maul) presented Max with the hand-painted oil painting that I mentioned earlier in the report. He was all smiles.

The event carried on for a couple more hours and shortly after the event was over, we heard the incredible news that an unbelievable $4,000.00 was raised for in just those 3 short hours! Amazing!
Here are some of the quotes from Leanne (Max’s Mom), speaking about Max’s party. Taken from the Naperville Sun at,6_1_NA10_HERENOW_S1.article :

Leanne wrote:
"It was just so cool. It's everything that he loves all in one room. He got to do his battles and he was shootin' things ... that was one of his wishes, to battle Darth Maul. The thing that was neat to me was how much effort people put into this. Their hearts are so big and they do this all the time. Their hearts are so big ... “

After the party, we all met up at a local Applebee’s restaurant to relax and share stories from Max’s big event. This was truly a day to remember for Max and his family, as well as for all of us that attended. It’s amazing how such a small little boy can touch so many, so deeply.

“Kick that tumor’s butt, Max!”

Thank you to EVERYONE that attended!! Thanks to all the spouses and kids that took photos and video and supported the “troops” in every way! We couldn’t do it without all of you!

Ed Kryzowski (TI-4438) – Tusken Raider
Pat Higgins (TX-3697) – Darth Maul & photographer
Ed Silva (TK-4544) – Sandtrooper
Vicki Silva (TI/TK-7118) – TIE Pilot
Rich Markle (SL/TI/TS-1781) – Darth Vader
Rudy Grasha (BH-3620) & Son– Boba Fett & Jawa
River – Imperial Crew
Phyllis "Schph Gochi" Schulte TJA/RL (TK/ID-1951) – Jedi
Cheryl "Whinter" Whitaker (TI/TB-3127) TJA/RL - Scout & Niece (Hailey - Princess Leia)
Jody McQuarters (TK-6443) & Son – Stormtrooper & Jawa
Jason Sands – (TD-1590) – Sandtrooper
Greg Fischer (TI-7748) - TIE Pilot
John “Fitz” Fitzsimmons (TK-6442) – Stormtrooper
Eric Scheuermann (TK-1819) – Stormtrooper
Mike Washko (TK/DZ-895) – Tusken
Cherri Kryzowski (TI-4026) – TIE Pilot
Darryl Sorensen (IC-4050) – TIE Pilot
R2-S5 – Himself
Michael J Riemma (TI-1659) – TIE Pilot
Geoff Pfeiffer (TK/TB-4813) – Stormtrooper
Kevin "Kesko Wethers" Skoglund RL/TJA (IN-6951) – Rebel Fleet Trooper
Nathan Bantz (SL/TK/TB-9135 - Japanese Garrison) - Cade Skywalker
Scott Grissom (TK-7472) – Stormtrooper
Jim DeJan (TI-3853) – TIE Pilot
Mark Van Slyke (TC/TB/IS/TK -8063) & Sons – Jedi Plo Koon & 2 Jawas
Tom Schaefer (TK, etc.- 118) – C3PO & Royal Guard
Bob Kohn (RL) – Chewbacca
Jason Patterson (TI/SL-1719) & Alyssa – TIE Pilot & Mini TIE
Aimee Jorgensen (TB/DZ-0101) – Tusken Raider
Rob Miller (TK/SL/DZ-7230) – Tusken Raider
Jeffrey S Baron (TI-9131) - TIE Pilot
Brad A Riverdahl (IG 1739) - Imperial Gunner
Pat "Jan Qui" Phinney (TJA) – Jedi
Trent Thornton (TK/SL/TC-0585) – Clone Trooper
Beth Johnson (TB-5852) – Zam Wessel

Rudy’s (BH-3620) Photos:
Patrick’s (TX-3697) Photos:
Michael’s (TI-1659) Photos:
Phyllis’s (TK/ID-1951) Photos:
Scott’s Photos:
Rob’s (TK/SL/DZ-7230) Photos:
Trent’s (TK/SL/TC-0585) Photos:
Mike’s (TK/DZ-0895) Photos:
Pat’s (Jan-Qui) Photos:
Cheryl’s (TI/TB-3127) Photos:




For more information About Max Please visit these pages ......  or

For this event I was both C-3PO and Royal Guard.  


Max with the gang Max with the gang
Max with the gang Max with the gang
TR118 dueling Max Max has upper hand SPARE ME MAX
      TR118 slain by Max  
Tom as 3PO and Max Tom as 3PO and Max

































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