Live-action Super Mario game a wish come true for local boy

Matt Gardner
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Members of the community came together this week to create a live-action video game that would turn one boy’s fervent wish into reality.

On Wednesday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, local artists, crew and their supporters showed off the fruits of their work to 10-year-old Patrick: a real-world Super Mario game that the boy himself commanded with the use of an oversized Nintendo control.

The Children’s Wish Foundation (CWF), which works with communities to grant the wishes of children facing life-threatening illnesses, created the game in response to a wish by Patrick.

But while granting wishes is all in a day’s work for the CWF, the speed with which they had to grant this particular wish -- with word going out to community supporters only six days ago -- was unprecedented.

“This is a unique situation for us, and so we honestly last week at this time did not think we could do this,” CWF provincial director Gay Oldhaver said.

“It just puts it in perspective that when you really need to find a way to do something that people are your best resource.”

Oldhaver took the lead in connecting with members of the local community last week after Patrick’s wish was approved.

“For some wishes, there’s an urgency to accommodate the condition of the child, and so in this case we were made aware that we needed to allow this wish to happen as quickly as possible,” she said.

Reaching out to local media outlets, within 20 minutes the CWF had gotten in contact with Odyssey Productions, which quickly assembled the needed performers and crew members through local acting and theatre groups.

“This was the first time for me (granting a child’s wish with the CWF) and I think it was the first time for most everyone here,” Odyssey Productions artistic director and Broadway North director Roxanne Dicke said.

“It was absolutely, I believe, a no-brainer for us … Children’s Wish has a fantastic reputation and (is) a really great organization, and we climbed on board and said, ‘Absolutely. Let’s do it.’”

After hearing about the project, Dicke called a local contractor and friend who put aside what he was working on that day to help out.

The pair went out and bought the necessary materials and by 10 p.m. that evening had already constructed the beginnings of a set that included all the familiar landmarks and terrain from the early Super Mario games, such as green pipes, castles, flagpoles and so forth.

It just puts it in perspective that when you really need to find a way to do something that people are your best resource. Gay Oldhaver

A number of businesses, such as Econo Lumber and the Floor Store, did their part by donating materials.  The Mann Art Gallery also contributed one of its resident artists to help out.

Meanwhile, local magicians Roger and Adreanna Boucher stepped in to handle scriptwriting duties.

“They kind of went into the old vintage Mario and created basically six levels or scenes for us to work from, and then it was about letting Patrick help control the game,” Dicke said.

“So we had to write it in a way that we didn’t know when he would have the characters jump or move or step back or run … We had to be quite inventive and rehearse it a number of different ways depending on if one of the characters died or not.”

In planning for all contingencies, the actors were able to hone their improv skills.

Dicke expressed her gratitude to all the organizations that helped.

“It really became about a network and a web of people that just came together and said, ‘This is the heart of our community -- this is what it’s about. Let’s show support to this boy and this family.’”

The final performance closely followed the original Super Mario games, with a “little” Mario being replaced by an older actor as “big” Mario after collecting a magic mushroom.

Traversing multiple levels, Mario encountered goombas, turtles and fish, threw orange balls that represented fireballs, and finally engaged in a final battle with an axe-throwing King Bowser before finally rescuing Princess Peach.

The appreciation of Patrick’s family for the community’s efforts were expressed in a special handwritten message they sent to the cast and crew that was read out backstage before their performance.

“We would like to extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone involved in making Patrick’s wish come true!” the message read.

“The time, effort and generosity given by performing artists, crew, business and the community is truly overwhelming and appreciated!”

Organizations: CWF, E.A. Rawlinson Centre, Nintendo Wish Foundation Floor Store Mann Art Gallery

Geographic location: Broadway North

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