Nine-year-old Alvin Garcia Flores met Darth Vader on Thursday when the Star Wars character presented the Nebraska child a black box during a school assembly.
Inside was a 3-D printed bionic arm Alvin had put on his Christmas list. Alvin was born without his right arm, but thanks to University of Central Florida-based Limbitless Solutions and the 501st Legion group of Star Wars fans, he received the bionic arm in front of his family, friends and classmates at Gateway Elementary in Omaha, Neb.
Principal Terry Burton made the initial call to Limbitless last year when he saw a video about the team. He thought it would make a real difference for the fourth-grader.
“I hope that the arm gives Alvin more self-confidence at school around his peers,” Burton said.
The team of UCF students constructed the bionic arm and shipped it to Omaha right before Christmas as part of its 12 Arms for Christmas campaign. Darth Vader – a costumed volunteer from the local 501st Legion – was scheduled to make a Christmas Eve delivery at the family’s home. But the family had to unexpectedly travel right before Christmas so the delivery was rescheduled for Jan. 14.
“I’m so excited for him to join our Limbitless family,” said Albert Manero, founder of the non-profit Limbitless Solutions.
Because the team could not travel to Nebraska and students knew Alvin is a big fan of the Star Wars movies, the team reached out to the 501st Legion, an international costuming club that celebrates Star Wars by passing on the movie experience to fans.
“One of the biggest outlets we utilize is charity work and giving back to the community,” said John Jaeckel, a member of the 501st who coordinated the delivery in Omaha. “When we were asked to help present this gift to Alvin there was no hesitation in accepting as it falls directly in line with one of the primary missions of our organization. One of the tag lines we use to promote our organization is ‘Bad Guys Doing Good’ and we are honored when organizations and groups contact us and ask us to be a part of something amazing.”
Alvin received his arm from Vader, a few Stormtroopers and other Star War characters during a special school assembly Burton organized.
Twelve children received arms during the Limbitless campaign. They were from Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Manero and his fellow students received international attention, including on the Today Show and CNN, after developing a bionic arm for 6-year-old Alex Pring in 2014. Last March, actor and humanitarian Robert Downey Jr., also known as Iron Man, presented Alex with an upgraded Iron Man-themed bionic arm. He posted a video of the delivery, which went viral.