Boy with Leukemia Makes Web-Filled Wish

Boy with Leukemia Makes Web-Filled Wish

Matt Forkas, 12, played a small role in the film thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Spider Man had just saved his elderly Aunt May from the clutches of supervillain Dr. Octopus and a gathering of bystanders looked on in bewilderment.

Among those bystanders in the scene from the new movie, Spider Man 2, stands a Vienna family, whose son had been offered the chance to be featured in the film through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Matt Forkas, 12, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002, when he was a fourth grade student at Forestville Elementary. In two weeks, he will have completed his final round of chemotherapy and the cancer appears to be in full remission.

While sick with the disease, he made a list of things he would most like to do: meet Kobe Bryant, have a Toys R Us shopping spree, and be in the new Spider Man movie.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation granted his third wish and in April 2003, he flew to New York City to meet the cast and crew and be featured as an extra in the movie.

"It was really cool," Forkas said. "The whole thing was amazing. We got to meet the stars. Everything."

Last week, Forkas and his family flew to Los Angeles to attend the premiere alongside the film's stars, Toby McGuire and Kirstin Dunst, and its director, Sam Raimi.

"Leukemia is just about the worst thing that could ever happen to you when you're a kid," said Len Forkas, Matt's father. "Make-a-Wish gives you something that is just about the best thing that could ever happen to you."

Elizabeth Forkas, Matt's mother, said the experience has been bittersweet for the family. Her son has gone from being so sick he could not leave the house to experiencing his dream.

"It's been a very difficult and painful journey for us," she said. "But it's been turned into something great."

ESTABLISHED in 1983, the Make-a-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

Before his son was diagnosed with Leukemia, Len Forkas helped raise thousands of dollars for Make-a-Wish foundation.

Milestone, his Reston-based real estate development company, partnered with Sunrise Valley Elementary School four years ago to sponsor an annual 5-kilometer walk-a-thon fundraiser for the organization. The event has raised an estimated $3,000 each year since its inception.

"Sure enough, we were helping kids and one of the kids we were able to help was Matt," Len Forkas said.

Last May, Matt Forkas spoke at the Sunrise Valley fundraiser, helping to put a human face on the good that Make-a-Wish can do.

Matt Forkas also spoke at the opening of Damon's, a new Vienna restaurant. On the restaurant's opening day, it donated all proceeds to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

He also spoke in June 2003 at the PGA golf tournament at Avenel in Potomac, Md. The annual event also benefits the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

In addition to their work raising money for Make-a-Wish, the Forkas family has started their own charity called HopeCam, which buys digital cameras so homebound sick children can see their friends.

During a grueling treatment program, Matt Forkas was forbidden to leave his home because his white blood cell count was so low.

"Instead of being bored all the time, I wanted to talk to my friends," he said.

So the family started HopeCam last year to help other children in Matt Forkas' former situation. So far the organization has raised more than $20,000.

LAST SATURDAY, the Forkas family rented out a movie theater at Reston Town Center to screen the new Spider Man movie. The marquee that day said, "Matt Forkas in Spider Man 2."

At the screening, the Forkas family was joined by 300 friends and family members. Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill) and School Board Member Stuart Gibson (Hunter Mill) also attended, having known the Forkas family through its charity work.

"Matt is really just a brave little boy," Gibson said. "Leukemia really hits these kids hard."

At a party at the Forkas house afterwards, firefighters from the North Point station, located on Route 7, stopped by in a firetruck. They gave Matt Forkas a ride and got him to autograph a Spider Man comic book to hang in the station.

But now that the excitement has died down a bit, Matt Forkas has turned his attention to more important things — such as middle school. He will attend Cooper Middle School next fall.

"Going through all this for two years, I'm excited about going to a new school without having to go through all that stuff," he said. "I've tried to live through this just being my normal self and now that's what I'm going to do."