WELLSVILLE - The battle raged on through the gymnasium of Wellsville High School on Saturday afternoon, but through it all, one brave Sith warrior emerged victorious.
Noah's Warriors, the group supporting the family of 7-year-old Noah Long in his fight against cancer, staged an epic Jedi-versus-Sith battle for Noah, who is a huge "Star Wars" fan.
"This is really nice, just to take our minds off things and let him be a kid," said Katie Long of Wellsville, Noah's mother. She said the event was conceived by friends of her husband, Dave Long, "just to celebrate Noah and how strong he's been."
A group of young lightsaber novices received training and instruction from Jedi warrior Tim Long (left) before engaging in battle during the Jedi-versus-Sith event staged by Noah’s Warriors Saturday afternoon at Wellsville High School. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Characters from the “Star Wars” series gathered around 7-year-old Noah Long before staging a Jedi-versus-Sith battle event at Wellsville High School on Saturday. Noah’s portrayal of Darth Maul was accented by those of (from left) his uncle, Tim Long, and father, Dave Long, as Jedi warriors, Jessica Beaver as an Imperial stormtrooper, Bob Beaver as Boba Fett, Noah Timmons as a Jedi warrior and Nick Timmons as Darth Vader. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Noah has exhibited a warrior's bravery since being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow, last year. He has undergone numerous
treatments and procedures since then, including a bone marrow transplant from his 4-year-old sister, Maggie, in January.
"It's been a long road," Katie said. "He's doing well and we're living each day." Noah was clearly having a good time at the event portraying his favorite character from the "Star Wars" universe, Darth Maul, expertly wielding his double-bladed lightsaber staff.
The event started off with a lightsaber training session for the children, who chose to be either Jedi or Sith, and were appropriately issued a green or red lightsaber. Many were in costume as "Star Wars" characters, including numerous little Princess Leias, while others wore identifying T-shirts from Coles Screen Printing.
Following training and some playful sparring sessions with one of the adult characters, the Sith could engage in battle with Jedi warriors, and the Jedi would have the chance to battle an Imperial stormtrooper or even Darth Vader himself.
A choreographed battle then took place involving Jedi warrior Noah Timmons' defeat of Darth Vader (Nick Timmons), which was avenged by Noah Long - who, as Darth Maul, defeats the Jedi for the honor of the Sith. There was also a battle scene featuring Noah's father Dave Long, as a Jedi fighter, against Noah's Darth Maul, in which the young Sith master triumphs.
The crowd favorite was a mass, free-for-all battle for all attendees to take up a lightsaber and join in. All the while, the soundtrack in the gym played the appropriate music and lightsaber sound effects, which lent to the atmosphere.
The event was organized by Justin Reed, a close friend of the Longs. "We're just trying to put on a fun day for Noah," he said, "to celebrate life." He thanked numerous people who gave of their own time and donations to bring the event together. "Tons of people just kind of gave and gave," Reed said.
There were also thanks for the generous donations from Simply Sweet Cakes, South Hills Jewelry, the Hot Dog Shoppe, Keystone Printing, Josh Blakely Photography, the Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce and Wellsville High School, for the use of the gym.
Afterward, a tired but happy Noah said he had fun during the fight sequences. "We're always in training," said Dave, confirming Noah's skills. Dave called the event "a huge blessing" and thanked everyone involved with putting it together. "There's no words to describe how it makes us feel," he said. "I never dreamed it would be this nice."
Just then, Darth Vader - minus his helmet - stopped by. "Thank you for avenging me," he said to Noah. "We can't let him win, can we?" he said of the Jedi fighter.
"No!" they both agreed.