LOS ANGELES (WHSV) — A Virginia child fighting a rare genetic disorder got the experience of a lifetime at the Avengers: Endgame premiere in Los Angeles, thanks to the Kids Wish Network.
Nikolai Gerke, a 17-year-old boy from Rhoadesville, Virginia, showed up at the premiere in style, chauffeured by Top Shelf Concierge Services along with his father to what Hollywood dubbed the purple carpet for Endgame.
They were escorted to an exclusive area where Nikolai got to be in the front row and meet, talk to, and take photos with the entire star-studded cast of the movie that's already shattering box office records worldwide.
“We were in the best location,” said his dad, Thomas.
Nikolai is battling familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, an extremely rare condition where the immune system produces too many activated immune cells. He’s been through several surgeries and suffers from extensive nerve damage, but learned to walk again after 18 months of rigorous therapy.
But for at least one day, he got to live life alongside some of the most famous people in the universe – at least in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
He got to meet everyone – from Chris Evans to Robert Downey, Jr. to Cobie Smulders to Danai Gurira to the Russo Brothers and every star between.
According to a press release from Kids Wish, he collected autographs, took photos, and had particularly special moments with two of the stars. When he met Scarlett Johansson, he gave her a plush Kids Wish Network Hug-O bear. Johansson smiled, clutched his bear tightly, and told Nikolai, “I’m going to snuggle with it during the movie.”
When asked why he gave it to her, Nikolai jokingly said, “Do I need a better reason than it’s Scarlett Johansson?”
Then, when he met Robert Downey Jr., he had a shirt for him designed with Nikolai's own personalized drawing of Iron Man.
“This is for me?" Downey Jr. asked. "I’m going to remember you.”
Nikolai and his dad were also invited into the theater for the premiere, alongside the cast and top Disney executives, getting to experience the movie of a lifetime at the same time that many of those involved got to see it for the first time.
“My favorite part of his wish was watching him going from not smiling, to not being able to control his smiling,” said his dad.
You can find photos of Nikolai meeting all of the cast, as well as some other celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Ken Jeong, below.
He and his dad also got to stay in luxurious accommodations at The London West Hollywood, where they received a private meet and greet with Churchill, one of the hotel’s famed bulldog mascots.
“We were all excited to plan Nikolai’s wish," said Kids Wish Network Executive Director Tam Lai. "An event of this magnitude will never happen again in our lifetime. How wonderful that he was able to experience something so extraordinary with his dad."
You can learn more about Kids Wish Network on their website at www.kidswishnetwork.org.