Ryan Tucker plays the 'Wish' game
Ryan Tucker had a wish. Clearly, it was one he deserved to have. An 11-year-old who attends Cider Mill School, Ryan has fought cancer since he was 3.
Now, Ryan wanted to see how his favorite video game was made. His family worked with Make-A-Wish Connecticut to make it come true.
“When we met with Ryan, he wasn’t sure at first what he wanted,” said Deborah List, a volunteer who has worked with Make-A-Wish Connecticut for 20 years. “He loves Legos and dogs but he really loves video games. He’s really attached to them. He got a sparkle in his eye and asked if he could see how they were made.”
Ryan’s favorite game is Pirate 101, produced by KingsIsle Entertainment of Austin, Texas. Make-a-Wish Connecticut, one of 60 regional chapters in the United States, reached out to the Texas branch to inquire about the wish.
“We contacted the company and told them his story,” Ms. List said. “The company planned the day and it turned into several days in Austin.”
According to a fact sheet provided by Michael Dominick, community relations manager for Make-A-Wish Connecticut, the first-ever wish was granted in Phoenix, Ariz. in 1980. Seven-year-old Chris Grecius wished to be a police officer, and his community came together to make it a reality.
The Connecticut chapter, founded in 1986, “grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”
“There are four categories of wishes,” Ms. List said. “I wish to be, I wish to meet, I wish to have, and I wish to go. We offer a chance to have a wish for a moment of joy in the middle of the moments of angst.
“Make-A-Wish makes arrangements for everything. It is all cleared with a doctor.”
Instead of simply handing plane tickets over to Ryan and his family, Make-A-Wish Connecticut held a pre-wish party at the Tucker home in Wilton.
“The CT Make A Wish decided that we could do something bigger,” said Caren Tucker, Ryan’s mother. “We invited a small group of his friends and Ryan didn’t know the kids were coming. Then a large truck arrived full of video games. They hung out in it for about two hours. It was a great party for him. He was thrilled. He definitely misses school and his friends.”
A lunch of chicken fingers and fries was donated by Pinocchio’s.
“I think what’s really neat about Ryan’s situation is that he’s very open about his health, and his friends are aware of what’s going on,” Ms. Tucker said. “They accept him and support him.”
“It’s an awesome testament to this community,” Ms. List added. “His friends are tremendous.”
Ryan was first diagnosed with a large brain stem tumor and had surgery at the age of 3. That was only the beginning.
“Some of the tumor was inoperable,” Ms. Tucker said. “It was something that we watched for a couple of years. Around the age of 5 we noticed it was growing. Ryan had chemo at 5, which stabilized until a year ago.”
Ryan began chemotherapy treatment earlier in 2013, and will be receiving it into next year.
“We knew he was eligible for a Make-A-Wish trip and we were waiting for the right time,” Ms. Tucker said. “We thought he might get a lot out of it at this time.”
Ms. Tucker and her husband, Bob, reached out to Make-A-Wish Connecticut to put the wish in motion.
The Tuckers and their three children flew to Austin for the wish at KingsIsle Entertainment, where Ryan was shown the full process of creating a video game.
“They introduced him to the whole team, Ms. Tucker said. “He met the actors and the writers, and he also gave feedback on Pirate 101. They treated him with such respect. The whole family enjoyed it. The people at KingsIsle did an amazing job.”
The Tuckers were also able to spend time around the capital city of Texas.
“We got to explore Austin,” she said. “We had so much fun there. Ryan really had a fantastic time. He was glowing.”
In some ways, though, the best surprise was yet to come. For an 11-year-old who is passionate about playing a game, probably nothing can be better than being a part of the game itself.
“They recorded his voice during the day saying things and having him read scripts,” Ms. Tucker said. “They created a character, Ryan the Relentless. That fits him really well. He has a really persistent personality with everything he does.”
When Ryan Tucker — make that Ryan the Relentless Tucker — returned to Wilton, he got to see himself in action.
“After we came home, Ryan was able to see his character in the game,” Ms. Tucker said, as KingsIsle used his voice for the relentless character.
“The company and the Make-A-Wish people did a terrific job,” she added. “It was just what he needed. It’s been tough being back on chemotherapy. He hasn’t been able to do the things that he does.”
Having just gone through another round of chemotherapy, Ryan wasn’t his usual loquacious self, his mother said, but he was able to come to the phone to talk for a moment.
“It was good,” he said. “It was very fun. When I went to KingsIsle, I got to learn about the game. It’s just one of those games that came along and entertained me. It was very cool.”