Small Boy; Big Heart
When Zayden Wright was only two days old, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease. His condition has required him to endure 38 echocardiograms, six heart catheterizations and four open heart surgeries during his fist seven years of life. And while his condition does pose daily challenges, Zayden retains the outgoing spirit, energetic personality, and infinite imagination of an extraordinary 7-year-old boy. When Make-A-Wish Georgia approached Zayden and asked him what he wanted in the entire world, he replied that he wished to blast off to outer space and visit Saturn in a red rocket ship.
Granting an Impossible Wish
Make-A-Wish volunteers, entertainment industry veterans and VR enthusiasts Veronica Sheehan (former senior vice president of global television operations for Turner) and Craig Heyl (currently of Pinewood Atlanta Studios) one afternoon had a thought: what if Make-AWish could harness the power of virtual reality to grant wishes for children? They shared this big idea with Tim Earley, the CEO of Make-A-Wish Georgia who loved the concept of using technology for wishes. This began the search for wishes that could benefit from the use of virtual reality. One very special and unique wish surfaced to the top: a seven-year-old Augusta boy named Zayden Wright wished to blast off to outer space, more specifically Saturn, in a red rocket ship. Upon hearing about this wish, Veronica, Craig and Tim looped in another entertainment industry powerhouse and Make-A-Wish Georgia supporter, Candice Alger, VR expert and former CEO of Giant Studios. Candice immediately thought of TRICK 3D, an expert 3D animation and virtual reality studio founded by Chad Eikhoff, producer/director of “An Elf’s Story,” the hit The Elf of the Shelf Christmas Special.
Virtually Possible, Truly Magical
With roots in 3D animation and virtual and mixed realities, Chad Eikhoff’s creative and technical teams at TRICK 3D made the studio the ideal fit to fulfill Zayden’s wish. Chad draws upon more than a decade of experience producing virtual worlds and content, including the creation, production and direction of CBS’ hit animated children’s special, “An Elf’s Story.” Chad and the TRICK 3D team immediately began work to fulfill Zayden’s wish, while at the same time granting the first virtual reality wish ever. The creative vision for the wish was set by Zayden himself: a boy with infinite imagination and boundless energy and creativity. Zayden described what his space expedition would be like with his mother, LaShonda “Shonda” Wright, and his Make-A-Wish Georgia Wish Coordinator, Hilary Sherman. In vivid detail, Zayden describes how his rocket ship will be red, how he will see countless stars along the way, and how he will encounter friendly aliens who greet him with the sound of “Bee Bo!” Zayden’s imaginative vision of travel to outer space has inspired this special wish community’s journey.
Preparing for Blast Off
Naturally, one cannot blast off to outer space (even virtually) without expert astronaut training and guidance. Growing Zayden’s wish community even further, Commander LeRoy Chiao, former NASA astronaut and founder of educational not-for-profit OneOrbit, heard about Zayden’s wish and joined the effort. On January 16, 2017, Commander Chiao led Zayden through an “astronaut training program” in preparation for his mission at TRICK 3D studios in Atlanta. Now, on May 1, 2017, Commander Chiao will accompany Commander Zayden on his expedition to Saturn, departing from Dobbins Air Reserve base. Zayden’s wish is just one of the 350 wishes Make-A-Wish Georgia is granting for children and families in need this year alone. Since 1995, Make-A-Wish Georgia has been granting the wishes of local children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich their lives and experiences with hope, strength and joy. This wish represents the first VR wish granted ever and exemplifies the strength of building communities of people around wishes to make the seemingly impossible, possible. To learn more about Make-A-Wish Georgia, visit georgia.wish.org
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