By Laila Kearney
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – San Francisco on Friday morphed into a Gotham City wonderland, where caped crusaders fought mischievous villains aboard cable cars and on sidewalks, for a little boy who celebrated his win against cancer by becoming “Batkid” for a day.
Five-year-old Miles Scott was cheered on by thousands of fans as he whizzed around the city with his crime-solving partner Batman — rescuing a damsel in distress from a train track, arresting comic book foe the Riddler at a bank and chasing the Penguin through a ballpark — in a Make a Wish Foundation project.
Even President Barack Obama got in on the caped crusade, releasing a short video on the website Vine to say “Way to go Miles, way to save Gotham.”
The nonprofit Make a Wish foundation worked with the city of San Francisco to stage the event for Miles, who has battled leukemia since he was a year old. His cancer went into remission in June.
“This is closure for us,” his father, Nick Scott, told supporters. He added that it has “been a long three years” for the boy and his family.
After his day of heroism, Miles was greeted by a cheering crowd of people outside City Hall, where he received a key to the city from Mayor Ed Lee. The boy is from the small California town of Tulelake, which is on the border with Oregon.
“Bat Kid, you won our hearts with your courage and your story,” Lee told a bashful Miles, who remained quiet, but smiled and wore a mask and cape during the ceremony. “The streets are much safer because of you.”
The San Francisco Chronicle put out a special “Gotham City Chronicle” edition with a front page article about Miles’ exploits written by Clark Kent, the alter ego of Superman.
“The whole city has focused on making this wish happen,” said Make a Wish spokeswoman Jen Wilson. “It has taken all of us by surprise.”
The production, which involved recreating comic book action scenes in some of the city’s busiest places, including Union Square and the AT&T Ballpark, used dozens of performers, production staff and hundreds of props.
Wilson said the organization initially hoped to have a couple hundred people volunteer to be a part of the awards ceremony crowd. By Thursday night, over 12,000 people had RSVP’d through the organization’s website.
Kelly Bermudes, a 23-year-old San Francisco State University student who heard about the event on Facebook, joined the crowd in her Batman logo T-shirt.
“I actually cried when I read about it,” Bermudes said. “I found it really touching that a whole city would do something like this for a child.”
The Make a Wish Foundation grants requests, ranging from Disney World family trips to royal-themed sweet 16 bashes, to children between the ages of two-and-a-half and 18 with life-threatening illnesses.
Make a Wish raises funds through donations from individuals and corporations and partners with businesses, governments and other organizations to fund wishes.
The Phoenix-based organization was founded in 1980 and has 61 chapters across the United States and has granted more than 226,000 wishes for children in the country and abroad.
The U.S. Department of Justice put out a fake criminal indictment against the Riddler and the Penguin that credited Miles for his “heroic actions.” It said the two villains would serve at least 24 years in prison and ironically said “good luck with that” to any attempt they might make to appeal.
“Because even if you get out of jail someday, you will never succeed in your criminal actions as long as Miles, aka ‘Batman,’ aka ‘Batkid’ is looking out for the citizens of Gotham,” the mock indictment said.