MOST people only dream of one day meeting their idol – but when the opportunity to do so comes around it can be life-changing.
Terminally-ill teenager Rio Stevens, from Gosport, knows this as well as anybody.
Thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation the 13-year-old Bridgemary School pupil recently got the chance to meet Ben Phillips – a Welsh YouTube personality with almost 4million subscribers.
The 25-year-old shot to social media fame in 2015 for a series of viral videos which saw him repeatedly prank his brother Elliot.
And while he continues to make those clips today, he took on a different mission last month when he agreed to welcome Rio into his hometown of Bridgend.
The pair played the hit video game Fortnite together – after the star rented out a whole cinema screen especially for the occasion.
‘It was so amazing – the best feeling ever,’ said Rio.
‘My dream is to become a successful YouTuber just like Ben and seeing how well he has done makes me want it more.
‘He has inspired me. He is really cool and funny.’
According to his mother Shalane, a 33-year-old social sciences student, it has long been Rio’s dream to achieve YouTube fame.
But life has not been easy for the lad – who was diagnosed with the rare heart valve defect Tricuspid Atresia soon after he was born.
Having also contracted meningitis twice, he has reduced hearing loss – and must wear hearing aids – and battles reduced motor neuron skills that restrict his mobility.
But getting the chance to meet his ‘idol’ Ben, Shalane said, was the perfect opportunity for her son to take his mind off his daily struggles.
‘I have never, ever seen my son so overwhelmed and lost for words,’ she said.
‘Ever since he got his hands on a tablet when he was little he has dreamed of being a YouTuber – there’s nothing he wants more.
‘Ben and his team went above and beyond for him and he still makes the effort to stay in touch and play Fortnite with him today.’
Mr Phillips, who also took Rio for a spin in his Porsche during the visit on August 2, called Rio an ‘amazing young man’.
He added: ‘He is a massive fan of the pranks and the Ben and Elliot Show cartoon.
‘So we decided to give him the best day of his life!’
When Ben met with Rio, he gave the youngster a chance to feature in one of his YouTube videos, above – which has now amassed more than 900,000 views after he shared it online.
And after also sharing a link to Rio’s own YouTube channel, he has helped the 13-year-old rack up more than 28,000 subscribers and 150,000 views himself.
Jason Suckley, CEO at Make-a-Wish UK said: ‘Children have the most fantastical imaginations.
‘Whether it’s a make-believe astronaut with a cardboard box for a rocket, or a wannabe pop star with a hairbrush.
‘But, when a child is battling a life-threatening illness, hopes and wishes for the future can seem as far away as the moon.
‘Long hospital stays, surgery, medication and endless appointments take over and leave little time for play and laughter.
‘We seek to create a unique and life-changing wish for every child who turns to us. For a desperately ill child, their wish can be transformative – giving them hope for a positive future, strength to fight their condition and the chance to re-introduce the wonderful joy of childhood.
‘That’s why we are so thankful to have such an amazing supporter such as Ben who went above and beyond to put on the most incredible day for Rio.’
He added: ‘If you have ever wished for something, and can imagine the feeling of that wish coming true, then you will know what a special day this was for the whole family.”’
To visit Mr Phillip’s YouTube channel, click here.