Using the forces of social media for kids with cancer

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Much like the Rebel Forces facing the Empire, Chris Baker is battling powers larger than himself, namely The Walt Disney Company, in the hopes of bringing “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to kids fighting cancer. Though he’s received no word from Disney officials, Baker has gotten some encouragement from Jedi Luke Skywalker, or rather actor Mark Hamill, who tweeted, “So proud to have you as a member of the Resistance. The Force will be with you always.”

Baker, 24, is a graduate of Seton High School in Manassas, a parishioner of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly and the drummer in the local band the Duskwhales. In October, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent surgery. Now, he is receiving chemotherapy because it spread to his lymph nodes.

While in the hospital last week recovering from a fever, Baker realized he might not be able to see the new blockbuster, which premiered Dec. 15. He knew there were others, especially children, who would be too ill to leave the hospital as well. So he took to social media to petition Disney to allow cancer patients to stream the movie from inside their hospital rooms. 

Ever since he was a kid, Baker has loved the “Star Wars” films. He and other members of the Duskwhales even had a photoshoot dressed as Han, Luke and Leia a few years ago. His petitioning social media posts are filled with photos, quotes and gifs that pay homage to the movies. “If it wasn’t obvious enough from the tweets, I love the original movies,” he said.

A few days before the film’s release, NASA confirmed that astronauts on the International Space Station would be able to watch the new Star Wars film, but no such luck for others who, as Baker put it, are “trapped like Han in carbonite.”

“They’re basically living out ‘Star Wars’ in real life,” said Baker of the astronauts. “Why doesn't Disney take this power (and show the movie) to those going through something terrible and who want to see it?”

Fortunately, Baker was discharged from the hospital in time to see the film on the big screen, with the admonition from his doctors that he should wear a face mask to the theater. Baker wore black clothes, a mask and gloves, but blended right in as Kylo Ren, the film’s villain. “I really liked ‘The Last Jedi,’ ” he said. “The director took it in a really good direction.”

Though he was able to see “Star Wars,” he’s keeping the petition alive for those who are still unable to leave the hospital. “Being in this situation is stressful and terrifying in so many ways, but it's weirdly helped inspire me to try new creative things,” whether it be new music or this campaign. “‘Star Wars’ has kept me going.” 

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Sign the petition here

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017