June 11, 2008

May the Force be with you, Owen

From the Lake Oswego Review:

May the Force be with you, Owen
Star Wars wish is coming true for Lake Oswego boy
By Cliff Newell
The Lake Oswego Review,
Jun 12, 2008

Matthew Ginny / Trillium Media Services

Lake Oswego’s Owen Miller takes on Darth Vader with his new light saber last week at Pioneer Place in Portland as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s kick-off event in Oregon. In addition to the light saber, Owen also was given a full Stormtrooper uniform. The Miller family soon will depart to Disney World in Florida for a special Star Wars vacation. The Star Wars characters are from Cloud City Garrison, a local chapter of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers.

Owen Miller is getting some re-enforcements in his brave battle for life – the Star Wars Stormtroopers.

Last Tuesday, the 6-year-old Lake Oswego boy was totally unaware of why he was standing at Pioneer Square in Portland, along with his parents Rich and Lisa Miller and his 2 ½-year-old sister Sela.

Then a MAX train pulled up, the doors opened, and out poured steam and smoke while the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars played. Out bounded Darth Vader and his Star Wars Stormtroopers, to shake Owen’s hand and present him his new Stormtrooper costume, because his old one was almost totally worn out from him wearing it several times a week; plus a light saber, with which he got to duel with Darth Vader, as cameras clicked.

Truly, the Force was with Owen.

“It made Owen feel very special,” Rich said. “It went above and beyond anything we expected. It was something extra special for our whole family.”

This whole operation was called “Destination Joy,” and it was just the beginning of what Owen will experience for being a recipient of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was the kickoff event for Make-A-Wish in Oregon, and while it was quite special in and of itself, Owen’s Star Wars wish will really be fulfilled June 18 to 23 when the Miller family will travel to Disney World in Florida for the Star Wars Weekend.

“Make-A-Wish asked Owen what would be best and most appropriate, and the trip to Disney World worked best,” Rich said. “It will be great for our family to have this time together, especially with everything that has happened the last few months.”

It was last September that young Owen was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor, a cancerous condition, and the idea of contacting Make-A-Wish came up soon after Owen had to be taken to the hospital.

“We knew about Make-A-Wish, but we didn’t know much about it,” Rich said. “We knew they did good work, but we didn’t know anyone who had been granted a wish. Our oncologist and Emmanuel Hospital told us we should get in touch with them and that started the process.

“We were not sure that Owen would be chosen. Only about half of the people who apply get their wishes granted.”

Coming up with an idea was no problem.

“Just about every 6 ½-year-old boy I know is obsessed with Star Wars,” Rich said.

But a lot of hard work and effort went into making Owen’s wish come true. One of the people most responsible was Marlene MacEwan of Lake Oswego, who has long been a liaison with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“It helped so much to have someone here like Marlene, who could talk to Owen and who would work so hard to make sure he received his wish,” Miller said. “For a kid like Owen and a family like ours, who have had so much control of our lives taken away, this is something great, something for our whole family.”

For the Miller family, Owen’s condition made life not just a matter of day to day, but hour to hour.

“To be so focused on the present is tiring,” Rich admitted. “This is something we’ve been looking forward to for months through the whole process. It’s like a carrot on a stick. We thought, ‘There’s something good up ahead.’ It was a constant incentive for us. To have something on the horizon that was super fun was very meaningful.”

When Owen and his family get to Florida they will be greeted by people from the movie, parades, special events, and, of course, more Star Wars Stormtroopers.

While Owen knew that the trip to Florida was coming, he did not know what to expect at Pioneer Square, and his parents only knew “a teeny bit.” But Owen had been chosen by the Oregon chapter of Make-A-Wish as the state representative for the national Destination Joy campaign. Just one child is picked in each state.

But if anyone is deserving of Star Wars treatment, it is Owen Miller.

For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit the Web site www.orwish.org or call 800-934-WISH.

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