WATCH: A young man living with a debilitating disease is celebrating a major accomplishment. Elaine Yong reports.
Finishing a Lego set is a satisfying moment for any person.
For Wilson Liu, a two-year journey completing a giant Death Star set carried extra significance.
It’s not just that Wilson is blind, or that he has a fatal degenerative disorder. And it’s not just that Wilson was given the Lego set during a chance encounter with a Vancouver Canuck.
For Wilson, finishing a three thousand, eight hundred and three-piece Death Star is a symbol of everything he’s overcome and the unique opportunities he’s been provided.
“Wilson is very proud of the things he’s accomplished,” says his care manger Jasmine Prasad. “He doesn’t let this disease stop him from doing anything he wants to achieve.”
Wilson hasn’t seen the Star Wars movies in nine years, but because they were his favourite films when he was young, he can still remember visuals in detail.
“There’s his lightsaber,” he says, describing Darth Maul. “It’s red on one end, and red on the other end too…it’s evil.”
When he was six, Wilson was diagnosed with Batten disease. It’s a terminal illness that first robbed Wilson of his sight and has slowly confined him to a wheelchair.
Wilson’s family doesn’t have much – his father works at a noodle restaurant while his mom cares for him full-time – but they were able to give him a wide range of opportunities as he grew up thanks to provincial funding. Two years ago, when he was 18, that funding was about to run out.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” says Prasad. “It was difficult for Wilson, we didn’t know what would happen, if he would have any workers be with him.”
It was during that time, when Prasad and Wilson’s family were trying to find a longer-term solution for his care, that the two of them were in Oakridge Mall. Wilson enjoyed playing with the Lego sets, especially the Star Wars ones. And especially the Death Star set.
But with a price around $600, it was too much for Wilson’s family.
“I had been trying for months and months to get Wilson this Death Star before I stopped working for him,” said Prasad, hoping that it might be a nice good-bye present to Kevin before she stopped being his care manager.
It was then she saw Kevin Bieksa.
“I said ‘excuse me, Mr. Bieksa, would you mind meeting Wilson?'” said Prasad, remembering their chance encounter.
Bieksa began talking to Wilson about his upcoming 19th birthday and his favourite Lego sets. Wilson bragged that he just finished the Millennium Falcon.
“What about this thing here?” said Bieksa, pointing to the Death Star set. Bieksa took it off the wall and paid for it on the spot.
“You began crying,” says Wilson to Prasad.
“It was kind of surreal, because with Kevin Bieksa not even knowing how important this was for Wilson, somehow he knew and got it for him. It changed all of our lives.”
Bieksa took a picture with Wilson – “The picture is so blurry. You look at the picture, and it’s really blurry, but it was a really emotional day,” said Prasad –
and told him to send him a picture when he was done.
Driving home, Prasad realized that what was going to be a good-bye gift was turning into something else.
“He said ‘see Jasmine, you can’t leave me now, you have to stay and help me build this thing. We have to build it together.'”
More motivated than ever, Prasad and Wilson’s family researched different ways to extend his funding. Eventually, they found Community Living BC’s Individualized Funding. After many anxious months, their application was approved, giving Wilson two years of additional funding.
During that time, Wilson has had some setbacks. But he’s also volunteered with the Vancouver Police Department, become a certified clown and take electric guitar lessons.
Not to mention finishing a certain Lego Set.
“Without Kevin Bieksa buying that Death Star, I’m not sure this all would have happened,” said Prasad.
“He had a pretty tough disease,” said Bieksa as he looked at the picture of Wilson and his Death Star.
“I just wanted to help him out a little bit. I just tried to help out around the holidays. It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.”
“What an amazing man.”
– With files from Elaine Yong