Mark Hamill Visited A Man’s Dying Son In Hospital – And He Agreed To One Extraordinary Condition

Image: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

When a friend contacts writer Ed Solomon with a peculiar request, he fears he’ll have to reply in the negative. That’s because they want him to arrange a meeting between Star Wars legend Mark Hamill and his child, desperately and terminally ill. But Solomon doesn’t know the actor at all.

Image: Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Starlight Children’s Foundation

However, if there’s anyone whom you’d want to ask a favor like this from, Hamill’s your man. He’s well known for his generosity towards fans and charities. And in fact, the meeting does go ahead in the end. But what happens when the actor turns up at the hospital just might renew your faith in the world of Hollywood.

Image: Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Typical of Hamill’s more notable charity efforts are the meet-and-greets he does for the Make a Wish organization. One in particular stands out from January 2000 in Milwaukee. In fact, so many fans wanted to meet the Star Wars legend that they lined up in the ice and snow from eight in the morning for a two o’clock session.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Twitter/Joe Sikorra

The friend who needed the favor from Hamill is Joe Sikorra. He’s had a lot of variety in his life, having once worked as a cop in Santa Monica, California, but the occupations didn’t end there. On top of that, he’s been an actor, stuntman and singer/songwriter. These days, though, he has a marriage therapy practice.

Image: Twitter/Joe Sikorra

When Sikorra’s not helping couples and families at California’s Stillpoint Family Resources center, he presents a faith-based talk show on Relevant Radio, a Catholic station. His broad experience comes in useful when relating the news of the day to people’s lives. And in his personal life, he and wife of nearly three decades, Lori, have raised two boys who have special needs.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/Christina Garbus

The Sikorra’s eldest son, John, came into the world while the couple lived in Santa Monica. But he moved with his parents to Westlake Village, C.A., after his brother, Ben, was born. Both boys would eventually be diagnosed with juvenile Batten disease. And by the time he met with Hamill, the condition had left John terminally ill.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/Christina Garbus

That diagnosis did not, though, prevent John from undergoing a full course of schooling. He would eventually graduate in 2010 from Chaminade College Preparatory High School, a Catholic establishment in the San Fernando Valley. And even the loss of sight caused by the condition couldn’t stop him from earning his senior letters in baseball.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/Christina Garbus

John would be remembered above all, after he passed, for his tranquility and peacefulness, as well as the massive smile he’d share with little prompting needed. His sunny, loving nature would bring him popularity among his peers at Chaminade. As a result, in his senior year at the school, his classmates crowned him Homecoming King.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/Christina Garbus

The youngster’s big love was baseball and, in particular, his favorite team, the Dodgers. He’d regularly sit in his Dodger cap and shirt listening to legendary commentator Vin Scully describe the games that he wasn’t able to go to, or enjoying a hot dog at those he could. On top of that, John adored the beach and skiing, but above all, his family.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/Christina Garbus

But John’s life had been blighted by a cruel genetic disorder. When he was about seven, he received a diagnosis of juvenile Batten disease. This relatively rare condition strikes in childhood, and it is invariably fatal. A child diagnosed with the condition cannot expect to live much past 30 years old at best.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

It’s thought that Batten disease disrupts the function of lysosomes, which work as the recycling centers in our cells. They break down waste products, particularly lipids, which are fatty compounds. The process of recycling lipids produces a substance called lipofuscin. In Batten disease, high levels of lipofuscin are seen, but it’s not known whether this is a symptom or the cause of trouble.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: MR.Cole_Photographer/Getty Images

The disease itself is classed as autosomal recessive. Which means that each cell will have two duplicates of a particular gene. If one is damaged, generally, the other can function as a spare. But sometimes both copies are no good. People with one bad copy can be a “carrier,” with no symptoms and no awareness that they have a problematic gene. When mother and father are both carriers, there’s a 25 percent chance that their child will inherit the disease.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mailson Pignata/EyeEm/Getty Images

Batten disease has a range of symptoms, commonly including loss of vision and degradation of motion that the child already has. In time, children can be wracked by seizures and find their motor skills damaged, leading to slow or no movement. In the end, the sufferer’s fate is to be blind, stuck in bed and bereft of cognitive functions.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/Christina Garbus

Sikorra told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 about John’s condition. He said, “The disease robs kids of their vision first, followed by cognitive motor function. Typically kids die in their late teens, early 20s. It is a very complicated disease and most doctors aren’t that familiar with it. So we lived in the moment, did as much as we could.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/Christina Garbus

One comfort for John as his disease robbed him of more and more of his faculties was his love of Star Wars. He would watch the first three films in the series over and over. And it occurred to Sikorra that maybe there would be a way to do something special for his son. Perhaps his friend, scriptwriter Ed Solomon, might be able to help.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images

Sikorra thought that Solomon might have some connection to Hamill because of the writer’s long and interesting career in TV and film. California native Solomon got his start in the industry while still a student, writing jokes and doing some standup. In fact, he was hired to write for Laverne & Shirley before he’d even finished school.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: John Lamparski/Getty Images

More TV work would follow, as Solomon wrote for It’s Garry Shandling’s Show for three years. From there, he moved on to a string of outstanding comedy movies that led to moneyspinning franchises. These include Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Men in Black and Now You See Me.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Rob Kim/Getty Images

In 2016, the writer worked on the hybrid project Mosaic, which was both a smash hit for TV, with Steven Soderbergh in the director’s chair, and an app. After that, he then moved back to movies for The Invisible Man alongside Johnny Depp. Interestingly, Solomon’s father-in-law is John Cleese, since he married the comedian’s daughter Cynthia in 1995.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: John Lamparski/Getty Images

With this background, it seemed to Sikorra that his friend might somehow have a link with Hamill. In turn, the writer could consequently ask him to visit John, who was ailing in hospital. This, however, wasn’t the case, but Solomon didn’t just say no. He told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, “I had never met Mark, but I called his agent and asked if this could happen.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

For Hamill’s part, after the first Star Wars trilogy, he found himself closely linked to Luke Skywalker in people’s minds. The actor then managed to find a range of varied roles that didn’t involve any typecasting. And this was particularly evident when he started to appear on Broadway in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Robin Platzer/Images/Getty Images

On top of film and theater, Hamill was also a much-sought-after voice artist. Although he had a variety of such roles, it was his part on the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series that captured people. So successful was it that it led to the actor being the go-to super-villain for the rest of the century. He also added his dulcet tones to the video game Wing Commander Academy, where he played Christopher “Maverick” Blair.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: L. Cohen/WireImage for XSEED Marketing & Games/Getty Images

And that wasn’t the actor’s only video game appearance, either. Indeed, you’ve definitely heard him in a host of other roles. These includes the Kingdom Hearts series, whose creator Tetsuya Nomura counts himself as a Hamill fan. With animated films also calling on his talents, the star has remained in demand as the years have gone by.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: via IMDb

However, Joker may well be Hamill’s biggest part since Luke Skywalker. Having first starred as the villain in the 1992 cartoon, it’s subsequent success led to many spinoffs. He’s even played the part for rides at theme parks and toys, despite the low pay. The actor did them willingly, though, because of his desire to protect the character.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

So, while Hamill was less visible, he was, nevertheless, in high demand when Solomon contacted his agent about meeting John Sikorra. The latter, however, asked the writer not to pass anything about the potential visit on to John. He said, “I don’t want to get his hopes up.” However, not even two minutes had passed before the actor himself was on the phone, saying he’d love to do it the very next day.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Victor Chavez/Getty Images

As promised, Hamill turned up for the meeting with John, his brother Ben, his dad and Solomon the next day. With the Batten disease strongly affecting his cognitive function, the young man couldn’t distinguish at all between the character of Luke Skywalker and the actor who had played him. But the star remained entirely unfazed.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

As Solomon told The Hollywood Reporter, “Mark spoke to John simply and directly and with utter dignity.” And his patience with the ailing young man was remarkable, the writer noted. He said, “John would ask the same question three times in a row, and Mark would answer the same way every single time.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Lucasfilm/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Sikorra then weighed in on the subject. He said, “Mark was just super patient and kind. It was was one of those beautiful experiences. It is very humbling, this disease. You have got to let go of your normal expectations for you and your kids and family. In the midst of struggle and tragedy, it was those points of connection that make you feel loved and less isolated. Mark was very kind, ‘No rush, my time is your time.’”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

And, in fact, the actor went a step further than anyone could have expected. Not only did he dedicate hours to answering John’s questions, but he also did it in character. Yes, Hamill spent the whole meeting as Luke Skywalker. Solomon would later tweet that this incredible gesture made him “teary.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

But even that wasn’t the end of Hamill’s extraordinary kindness, as another figure from the Star Wars universe was about to enter the story. When the actor was about to leave, he asked John if there was anything else he wanted to say. And there was, in fact, one thing. John then asked if he could meet Princess Leia.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Solomon and Sikorra were taken aback by this request. Surely it was asking too much of Hamill? They gave each other a look that became a wince, and the father-of-two motioned to the actor that there would be no need to grant this particular wish. He, however, didn’t hesitate and promised to pass on the request.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Twentieth Century Fox Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Later the same day, Hamill called Solomon on the phone with the answer. He said, “Princess Leia would be happy to meet John.” Actor Carrie Fisher had apparently been touched by the young man’s story and only wanted to know when and where she and John could meet. Unfortunately, the young man went downhill very quickly from there, but he died knowing that Princess Leia wanted to meet him.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

John passed away at the age of 23 in 2015. Sikorra later told The Hollywood Reporter that his family would forever treasure the day their son met Hamill. He said, “It was one of those very touching, moving things. And in that moment, it raised John up and made him feel good and important and loved.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW

Solomon was reminded of the story when The Last Jedi came out in 2017, when Hamill’s face was wherever he looked. He said, “There has been so much negativity out there these days. […] Every time I see one of my heroes trending, I have to look through my fingers to see what bad thing they might have done.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The writer tweeted about the meeting, saying, “[Hamill] was compassionate, kind and patient. And it literally meant the world to this kid and his family.” At the same time, Solomon was quick to point out that the actor didn’t look for any reward from the meeting. The tweet rapidly received a huge response.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for for Disney

More than 1,200 users retweeted the thread that Solomon posted, and it received 11,000 likes. It reminded users how much they loved the Star Wars actor, himself a popular tweeter with more than three million followers. And people rushed to credit Hamill for the example he set for other celebrities to use their position for good.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

One Twitter user who appreciated Solomon’s story was HLJ, who joined the rush to praise the star. He posted, “You do a lot, Mark. Right now it feels rare to hear stories about someone in a privileged position using that power for good. Thanks for being one of the good guys.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: John Shearer/Getty Images

Another Twitter user who shared that appreciation of Hamill was Mara Jade. She wrote, “@HamillHimself is so great to his fans and has a big heart. I’m not surprised by this story at all. Mark, if you read this, thank you for bringing joy and love into this often cold world.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

Some users, however, shared stories of family illness, such as Fiona Burt. She wrote, “My sister was in hospital many times during my childhood. We never knew if she would pull through – she’s 24 today. Star Wars was one of the things that got me through, you guys were my friends. Thanks for doing this, Mark. It means everything to kids.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Disney

And perhaps the most moving tribute to Hamill’s kindness came from a grieving mother, Jen. She wrote, “I’ve lost a child. The special memories made, like this, help preserve a bit of happy in what is the darkest space of living hell there is. Thank you for sharing this beauty with us.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images

As for the man himself, Hamill’s own response says everything about who he is. He wrote, “There’s no sweeter sound than a child laughing – I’ve been so lucky – feel it’s my duty [to] give back in any way I can. Much prefer visits [to] hospitals than talk-shows. Heartbreaking but inspirational – makes my career seem trivial in comparison. Wish I could do more.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT