It all started with watching the Lego-version of the Star Wars movies and building the characters with Legos. Then, Sam graduated to watching the live action version when he turned 6 years old. Now, at only 6.5 years old, Sam is a trained Jedi with experience in fighting Darth Vader, and he has the diploma from the Jedi Training Academy to prove it.
Even without his diploma, though, Sam has always been a fighter. His parents discovered that he has a heart condition when Renee was pregnant with him. Because of the severity of his condition, much of his childhood has been spent with treatments and doctor’s visits. In fact, he had to postpone having a wish granted last year because he had to leave for surgery.
His wish granter, Andrea Tirhi, made sure that Sam knew he wasn’t in the fight alone, though. She arranged for a “wish you well” party at Covenant Christian Academy, his preschool. All the students dressed up in red, which is Sam’s favorite color, and they had a balloon release, where everyone wrote prayers and well-wishes for Sam. Afterward, he even got a limo ride to a his favorite restaurant, Cheddar's.
By the time he recovered from his surgery and welcomed a new brother, Jackson, into the family, Sam had found a video of the Jedi Training Academy at the Walt Disney World® Resort on YouTube. He decided his one true wish would be to attend the Jedi Training Academy. His new wish granter, Anh Nguyen, helped set the wheels in motion for this to happen.
So, Sam started practicing every day with the YouTube videos, and when it was time to leave for the trip this May, he packed his Obi-Wan Kenobi costume himself. Renee said that thanks to his preparation, he already knew the routines and was the best student on the stage. Sam got to do the force push with the storm troopers, and he got to ride in the motorcade with all the characters.
“There are moments in Sam’s life when I have seen him happy, but this was just sheer joy,” Renee said. “We know everything he has been through, and we know he had been robbed of so many childhood experiences. He has spent birthdays and holidays in the hospital. So, to see him up there and just own the Academy, it was precious.”
Sam said the Jedi training camp was the favorite part of his trip, but the trip did also include time at the Magic Kingdom, where he said they saw Stitch when they rode Stitch’s Great Escape. Even though he didn’t get to meet Stitch or his favorite Star Wars character, General Greivous, he enjoyed meeting Anakin Skywalker best of all the characters he got to meet.
The family also visited the Legoland, the Animal Kingdom and Epcot Center. On top of that, they had plenty of activities to enjoy at Give the Kids the World. His grandmother, Andrea, watched his brother Jackson since he is only two months old, so Sam got to spend a lot of personal time with Renee and his father, Jacob.
“Sam was just on cloud nine,” Renee said. “[The trip] has brought our family closer together for sure.”