Fox News journalist Shannon Bream inadvertently found herself at the center of one of the most inspiring stories on the internet this week when a tweet trying to help a young, terminally ill fan achieve his dreams went viral. On Sunday, Bream tweeted, “Need your help Twitterverse – trying to help a young boy who is dying. He probably has just days and all he [wants] is a greeting from one of the Avengers. If you have a celeb connection, please let me know. Otherwise, could you help out with a RT? Thank you in advance!”
Within hours, she had a response from CNN journalist Jake Tapper offering to connect her and the 11-year-old boy named Emilio Pachón with Paul Rudd. The tweet went viral and she received responses from the likes of Chris Evans, Paul Bettany, Ryan Reynolds, Don Cheadle, and more. Hours before Pachón died Wednesday, Bream was in talks to get him on the phone with Mark Ruffalo.
Even after death, Bream continued to tweet out gratitude and share Emilio’s story, writing “Emilio’s simple request launched an avalanche of goodness and miracles.” EW called up Bream to get the details on how this all came to be and what the experience has meant to hear and Pachón’s family ahead of her show Fox News @ Night w/Shannon Bream.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You met Emilio’s uncle on a plane. How soon after that did you end up sending out your tweet?
SHANNON BREAM: I met him on a plane about six weeks ago or so, and we chatted and kind of exchanged business cards and restaurant recommendations. I hadn’t heard from in the meantime. I didn’t think anything else about it. On Sunday, I got an email from him and he said, “I don’t know if this is going to work. My 11-year-old nephew Emilio is dying of cancer. He really maybe only has a few days left, and I know a new Avengers movie is coming out, maybe they do press, would you know anything about how to contact them? Because his only wish is to hear from one of the Avengers.” I said to him, “I’m not even sure what Avengers are. That’s terrible, but I’m just not up on that movie franchise or who the characters are. I don’t know folks in Hollywood, but I’ll see if there’s anything I can do to help.”And I really to myself am thinking, “I’m not going to be able to do much, but I’m going to at least make an effort and I’ll get back to him.” On Sunday, when this email had come into me, I had just left church, where this pastor had given a big sermon about, “You need to pray for things that are so big, they’re beyond your own resources, your human abilities. Things that only God can get done. Where he can get the credit.” That kind of hit me when this email came in and I talked to Tim, his uncle, and I thought, “You know what? I’m just going to say a prayer as I sit here in my kitchen and send this tweet, and we’ll see what happens.” It very quickly started going viral. I heard from Jake Tapper over at CNN; he reached out to me and said, “Hey I’m friends with Paul Rudd. He plays Ant-Man. Let’s see if we can get a video from him to Emilio, and that was the first one that came in.” As the night went on, Chris Evans, Captain America, reached out and it started to snowball. By the end of Sunday, we had more than 10,000 retweets and things were really starting to come in — people offered connections to different directors or PR contacts they had and it just kind of snowballed from there.
Were you surprised at how quickly it received the reaction it did?
I really was…I never in my wildest imagination would have thought that so many people in such a quick time would be able to step forward and get us videos and messages to get to Emilio while he was in the hospital. Really within 48 hours we had Don Cheadle and Zachary Levi, Paul Bettany, Benedict Wong. There were so many people who stepped up — Chloe Bennett, Clark Gregg, Elizabeth Olsen, the list just goes on and on. People would even say, “Hey I’m not part of the Avengers franchise, but I played a part in one of the movies or I’m a side character or on a spin-off.” And I said, “We’ll take whatever you have – if you’re a superhero or someone in a costume the kids would recognize, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.” His family was really overwhelmed by how quickly these things came in. I had a connection to Mark Ruffalo that came through online through Twitter, and I referred him to the family, and they had set up a phone call. Mark plays the Hulk, and he was set to call Emilio in the hospital on Wednesday afternoon. I was so excited emailing back and forth with him. Emilio’s got two little brothers who are twins; they’ve enjoyed every minute of this too, and we were so excited that Mark had reached out and was going to do this phone call on Wednesday afternoon. Within a couple of hours, I heard back from Tim [his uncle] and he said Emilio had passed away and the family was just really grateful for this amazing thing that happened basically over three days time. He got those messages and was able to see them, and it lit up the hospital, they said. The last couple of days for him and his brothers, just to see how complete strangers stepped up and made time for this young boy that I never got to meet, they will never get to meet.
What did this mean to the family and Emilio from your interactions with them?
I get a recorded audio message from Emilio, and he was really struggling for each breath. He was heavily sedated and really in a tough time these last few days, but he was so excited about every one of these messages that had come in. I got to see most of them. They were very personalized to him and encouraging and telling him the Avengers were there and pulling for him and they knew he was a fighter too. They were so inspiring. I got teary-eyed many times over the last two or three days seeing these things come in to him. The family have said it just made a world of difference to him. The last few days he had in the hospital were so different and so uplifting because they couldn’t believe how many people were willing to step up and give their time and make this happen for him, for complete strangers and to brighten the room for his brothers too, who loved seeing all of the messages coming in. They’re even younger, and they love all things superheroes and Avengers. We’re just incredibly moved. All of us who got involved with this could not believe just how enormous the outpouring was.
On a personal level, what did all of this mean to you:?
I guess I was in the right place at the right time meeting Tim. I don’t believe anything’s a coincidence. I’m a person of faith, so, I believe we were meant to meet and that this Twitter event was meant to happen. I’m just humbled beyond measure that this turned into what it did. So many of the celebrities who’ve reach out have been incredibly, incredibly kind and down to earth, and I’ve just seen the best of humanity and certainly the best of social media, which I often think is a horrible place. This proves it can actually be used for amazing, good things and people genuinely have compassion and they do care about people in need. An 11-year-old boy who had a big dream that we had such a short timeframe [to fulfill], and it actually came true.
Anything else you want to add about Emilio or his family?
He actually wrote a book last year, if you can believe that. He is an adorable guy. You can see his video on their foundation. It’s Genes Foundation, it’s a group that his family started with some others because when they were met with this diagnosis, like any family, they were incredibly overwhelmed. They wanted to have an outlet, a place where people and families who were facing really tough diagnoses would have access to information and different experts. Emilio wrote the book last year and all of the proceeds will go to benefit the foundation, and it’s a story about a young guy and his twin brothers and the adventures that they go on. It’s fictional, but I think it’s probably got a lot of truth to his family and his life. He’s fought this cancer before and they really thought he was fully in remission and fully healed and not that long ago it came back and there was just nothing more they could do. But I think their hope is that not only will his little life be such an encouragement to people that there really is a lot of goodness in the world, but hopefully through the Genes Foundation, they’ll be able to help other families too.
Fox News @ Night w/Shannon Bream airs weeknights at 11 p.m. ET.