FOX 5 viewers help liver transplant recipient meet superhero
A 12-year-old boy’s dream came true earlier this week when he had the chance to meet his favorite superhero. It was all thanks to FOX 5 viewers and the power of social media.
You might remember Jonah Henneberg, aka “The Costume Kid.”
Born with biliary atresia, Jonah was hospitalized more than 20 times at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, enduring four surgeries.
At 6-years-old, he had a liver transplant. He got through it all by embracing his inner superhero. Jonah wore a superhero costume to every doctor's appointment. One day, he'd be Captain America, the next appointment he'd be Flash Gordon.
Jonah endured more than any child should. The costumes helped him be brave – and strong – through countless painful medical procedures. When he was in costume, he could bear anything. He stayed in character the whole time.
Just before Jonah turned 12-years-old in May, his mother, Kerrie Zurovsky, reached out to The FOX Medical Team’s Beth Galvin. She told Beth it was Jonah’s dream to meet Chris Evans, who is portraying “Captain America” which has been filming in Midtown.
Beth followed Jonah’s journey as he went from sick child to superhero, so it meant a lot to her to help him meet his favorite superhero.
For weeks, Jonah stood outside the set and did jumping jacks to try and get someone’s attention. However, it didn’t work.
FOX 5 took to social media and posted a video with Beth asking our viewers to help spread the word. We asked people to use the hashtag #HelpJonahATL in hopes of making Jonah’s dream come true… and it worked!
“This came together 100% because of Beth's video. She did that video, and almost 30k people liked and/or shared it,” said Zurovsky. “That somehow led to the publicist getting my number and calling me.”
Jonah met Chris Evans on Wednesday. He got to walk around the set, meet other actors and enjoy some one-on-one time with the celebrity. His mother said he was “totally in his Marvel element.”
Zurovsky said at one point during the meeting Jonah put his hands on his head and yelled, “Mind blown, Mom!”
The heartfelt message Jonah’s mother sent Beth Galvin following the big day:
I woke up with a huge smile on my face this morning. I am usually a pretty star struck girl, but today my smile had nothing to do with my star sightings yesterday. It was all because of Jonah. It's true that when you have kids you instinctively put their happiness first. My cheeks actually hurt today from all the smiling I did yesterday, watching his dreams come true, one by one. Holding Captain America's shield? Check! Wearing Iron Man's helmet? Check! Meeting Sebastian Stan (aka Bucky Barnes)? Check! Shaking hands with Chris Evans and giving him Captain America drawings that Jonah did himself? Check! Many more things that were absolutely incredible, but we had to sign paperwork swearing we'd never say a word about them? Check! After Jonah gave Chris Evans some of his drawings, Chris signed a Captain America movie poster, writing, "You've got some talent, man! Always dream big!" And after taking pictures with his arm around Jonah, Chris turns to him and says, "This is the best day!" He says that TO JONAH!
Beyond the down-to-earth and humble nature of Mr. Evans and everyone else we met yesterday, my heart swells today with the realization that we are surrounded by love. I am in awe of the number of people who shared Jonah's story and kept asking me what the status was. People have tried to help in whatever way they can and have been genuinely excited for Jonah. I truly believe the positive energy that was put out there is what led us to the events that unfolded yesterday. The best way I know to say "thank you" is to put my own positive energy into the world and continue what you all started. xoxo
Zurovsky also wrote Chris Evans a letter:
Dear Mr. Evans,
Thank you so much for taking the time and making the effort to meet my son, Jonah, today while you are filming in Atlanta. For you, this day very well may come and go, possibly creating a short term memory of something you did - a heartfelt gesture, a generous gift of your time. It might, for a short while, be a source of contentment, as you know you have gone beyond the role of actor and helped to create an irreplaceable memory for a child. It might bring a smile to your face, and it might even remind you of a deeper meaning that your role as Captain America plays in the hearts of children. In the hearts of children who are struggling - with superhuman-sized issues. In the heart of my child, who, as silly and amusing as it may seem to others, has held Captain America (you) close to his heart and deep in his spirit as he has struggled and fought his own battles.
Born in 2003 with a chronic liver disease called biliary atresia, Jonah came out of the womb a fighter. Knowing he would someday need a liver transplant, Jonah faced years of doctor visits and hospital stays. It took him 2 years to discover his love and obsession with superheroes, but as soon as he did, he never looked back. Whether it was a trip to the bank, to the grocery store, the doctor or just the dinner table, Jonah was always in costume. Once, as we arrived at the hospital for a routine appointment, Jonah - dressed in full costume - broke out in hives. He panicked, wondering out loud how could he face the doctors and the seemingly scary events ahead with these hives? Superheroes don't get hives! It was at that moment that I realized the true depth of Jonah's imagination and strength. He had truly assumed the persona of whatever costume he was wearing at the time. If it was Captain America, his powers and shield could and would defeat whatever health battles lay ahead for him.
Less than 24 hours after his liver transplant in 2009, Jonah forced his way out of the hospital bed and through ten iv cords and managed his way into a superhero costume. Then, complications led to 3 more surgeries in 2 weeks, during which time Jonah seemed to be losing hope. But his determination was never truly gone, as even when he wouldn't talk or eat, he would sit in that hospital bed and look at pictures of superheroes. Jonah might have been the original superhero kid at the Children's Hospital here in Atlanta, but what we have happily learned over the last few years is that this "superhero syndrome" is more common than most people know. There are plenty of kids who cope with their illness by pretending to be a superhero. And your quick handshake, quick pat on the back, even quick hug might just do more for these kids than medicine itself. You as Chris Evans might just have superhero powers separate from Captain America that you didn't even realize!
So for you, this day will come and go. But for Jonah, and for me witnessing this as his mom, this day will live forever in our hearts. This day is the culmination of years, a decade to be exact, of a love and an excitement and an obsession and an admiration for a superhero character that you get the privilege of acting everyday. Your role in this day, this huge life event, will not be forgotten. It will not be lost on us. I'm not sure Jonah understands the full extent of the events that happened to make today a reality. I'm not sure he understands fully the lengths of crazy I went to to help make today happen. And I'm sure at his age he does not truly understand how busy and involved your days are and how precious your time is and therefore the enormity of your taking the time to meet him. But I get it. I understand. And I am truly, humbly, forever grateful to you for making my sweet, precious child's dream come true. I hope that in some small way he can touch your heart in the same way you have touched ours.
Zurovsky said after Jonah and Evans met, the actor posted the following message on Twitter.
“Wow, I have some wonderfully supportive fans. Thanks for the love. It means the world to me!”
Thank you so much for helping FOX 5 and Beth Galvin make this little boy’s dream come true. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Zurovsky said once she gets the photos of Jonah and Chris Evans she will let us know.
The new Captain America: Civil War is set to release on May 6, 2016.
For more information on Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, where the movie was filmed, click here.
APP USERS: Click here to view the photo gallery.