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Vernon man defies medical challenges to fulfill wishes for sick kids

Anakin Suerink (second to right) in September 2021 after rappelling down a building to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation, with friends from 501st Legion.
Image Credit: Credit/ Elizabeth Eckert

A Vernon man in a Darth Vader costume is working hard to grant wishes for sick children after enduring a lifetime of his own medical struggles.

Anakin Suerink, who lives with autism and is legally blind, has been rappelling down buildings and walking for kilometres raising funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“He is a unique, resilient young man who is passionate about helping others,” said his mom, Elizabeth Eckert. “He is so funny and such a joy to be around."

Suerink was born prematurely, weighing just one pound and it was unclear at the time whether he would survive. Growing up he endured countless surgeries and thousands of hospital visits. In 2018, he gained enough strength to receive his wish, to go to Walt Disney World.

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It sparked his passion to pass the gift onto other sick kids.

“Going to Disney World changed our lives,” Eckert said. “Anakin decided to wish it forward for other children to experience what he did, a renewed sense of joy in his life.”

Suerink rappelled down skyscrapers in several cities in Western Canada, following in the footsteps of the man who rappelled to raise funding for Anakin’s own trip, a man called Papa Joe. 

“Papa Joe was 83 years old the first year he repelled and said it was the direction of his late wife that he spent his remaining years of life to pay it forward," Eckert said.

The last building Suerink rappelled down was in Edmonton. Sharing his name with Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars who became Darth Vader, he wore a Darth Vader costume during the descents.

“At first it was terrifying to watch him and I had to sit in a chair because I didn’t trust my legs to hold me,” Eckert said. “The last building was 23 stories high.

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The foundation stopped doing the rappelling events, and this year Anakin did Trail Blaze B.C where he raised money by recording the distances he walked.

Anakin Suerink of Vernon raises money for Make-A-Wish Foundation so sick kids can get their wishes, taken June, 2022.
Anakin Suerink of Vernon raises money for Make-A-Wish Foundation so sick kids can get their wishes, taken June, 2022.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Elizabeth Eckert

“Two decades ago I was told that Anakin would never walk or talk,” Eckert said. 

Between the repelling and the walking fundraiser, Anakin along with the support of his family and community have raised enough money to send two children on their wish trip and three quarters funding for a third one.

“When Anakin received his wish it created so many connections and is changing lives,” Eckert said. “It is so heart crushing to see what these sick kids are going through but it is so uplifting to see them get their wish.”

This year's Trail Blaze B.C. event closed on June 25, with the family raising and donating just over $2,000 to the foundation.

Anakin is an honorary member of the 501st Legion, a volunteer-based charity with a love for everything Star Wars. He is hoping to become a full member in the future.

For more about Anakin or to make a donation for wishes go to his website here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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