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Las Vegas children cheered by ‘Star Wars’ hospital visits

Updated February 8, 2019 - 2:56 pm

Finn Foust, 2, lay in his hospital bed at Sunrise Children’s Hospital, unaware that a parade of “Star Wars” characters was headed toward his room.

The costumed visitors were part of the Rebel Legion Coruscant Base, a local chapter of an international “Star Wars” costuming organization that participates in charity events and volunteer activities. The five volunteers visited 35 rooms Wednesday.

After the group squeezed into Finn’s room for its first visit of the morning, he was presented with a stuffed Porg — a small, cliff-dwelling creature from the film series. After Finn had gazed for a few moments at Susan Galvin, dressed as Princess Leia, a large smile spread across his face.

“We see their eyes light up and a sense of wonderment pass across their faces,” said James Nocie, the Coruscant Base’s commanding officer, who stood on stilts inside his Chewbacca costume. “We get kids laughing that have no reason to laugh.”

After leaving Finn’s room, Galvin told the others, “That last room made it all worth it.”

The hospital didn’t disclose the ailments suffered by the children who were visited Wednesday.

The Coruscant Base began cheering up children in hospitals three years ago and now does so monthly. The all-volunteer group visits at least 10 children at each hospital, usually unannounced. After each visit, members take photos with the patient and family members.

The group’s third stop at Sunrise was 5-year-old Santino Generelli’s room. After, his father’s eyes began to water.

“This is something Santino doesn’t fully understand yet that I am going to share with him someday,” Jeffrey Generelli said, referring to the “Star Wars” film series.

He added that he will remind his son of the visit forever. The Generelli family expected to leave Sunrise with Santino the following day.

“Some of the times we will go into rooms and the children seem like they are hooked up to every hose and every machine possible, and maybe they do not even know we are there, but their parents are there and we get the chance to cheer up their parents,” James said.

He said his wife, Mary Ann, hatched the idea of hospital visits. James estimates the group has visited children more than 100 times at Sunrise, University Medical Center, Summerlin Hospital Medical Center and the St. Rose Dominican Hospital campuses. On May 4 — a date celebrated by fans as Star Wars Day — the group visits children at all four of those hospitals.

In the preceding years, the group appeared at charity events, at schools and at scouting events.

Mary Ann said she and James got hooked on the costume charity events after they came across a different “Star Wars” costuming group online about 15 years ago. They quickly became more excited by the charity work than simply by wearing costumes, she said.

“The main thing about the hospital visits is giving the kids something else to think about than being sick,” Mary Ann said.

In a lighter moment, James grunted and grumbled at Santino through his costume, doing his best wookie impression.

“I can’t understand you,” Santino said, giggling.

Contact Rachel Spacek at 702-387-2921 or rspacek@reviewjournal.com. Follow @RachelSpacek on Twitter.

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