It was a troubling investigation.
Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference was missing.
“Well, I understand the mayor is pooling his resources together. He’s going to bring in as many investigators as he can to get on this case,” Sgt. Steve Sharp told reporter Jo-anne Nugent in an Action 7 News YouTube broadcast.
“But I think if Spider-Mable is out there and you get this message, if you can come down to the Mayor’s office to be a part of the team, and lead us towards safety, (we’ll get) our captain back.”
That call for help was, fortunately, answered by none other than the Amazing Spider-Mable herself.
The six-year-old superhero didn’t hesitate — school had to wait.
“When she realized that it was her they were asking for, she said ‘Ok,’” said Mable’s mom, Lisa Tooke.
“She didn’t want to waste any time once she realized they were asking for her.”
Donning her personally-tailored Spider-Mable costume, which was a modified Spider-Man outfit assembled by her mom, the newly-minted caped crusader hopped into her Spider-Mable Mobile and headed toward Edmonton City Hall where Mayor Don Iveson gave her full access to the city in her quest to capture Mysterio, the villain Spider-Mable’s spider-senses were telling her was responsible for wreaking havoc.
With Spider-Man by her side, Spider-Mable set out to rescue the Oilers beloved Captain and apprehend the shadowy villain.
When Spider-Mable isn’t busy suiting up to fight crime, her alter ego, Mable Tooke, is doing what most six-year-old girls do. She goes to school, plays with her friends and stays active.
Her bubbly personality is infectious and you can’t help but smile when in her presence.
“Her name actually means ‘friendly,’” said Lisa.
It certainly suits her. Mable may be short in stature but she makes up for it with a go-getter attitude and a determination to have fun.
“She’s six, she’s spunky, she’s full of energy, but behind all of that she’s also fighting leukemia…she’s faced with something that no six-year-old should ever have to go through,” said Jenna Rego, Wish Coordinator for The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Alberta and Northwest Territories Chapter.
In September of 2013, Lisa and Mable’s father, Neil Tooke, started to notice that Mable’s demeanour had changed.
“All of a sudden, the little kid that would never stop running and moving and going had no energy, had no ambition. She found a five-minute walk to school to be too much,” said Lisa.
Mable’s parents took her to a walk-in mediclinic.
“They did some blood work and less than an hour later we got a call from the clinic saying, ‘Get her to the Stollery, now,’” said Lisa.
A few days later, her tests were confirmed. Mable was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“Which is, thankfully, the most common form of childhood cancer, and because it’s the most common, they’ve had the most research and the cure-rate is very high,” said Lisa.
Since the initial stages of her treatment, Mable appears to be doing well.
“She has started her last round of treatment now. She’s had her last of the nasty treatments but she still has about 40 days left of this round,” said Lisa.
Spider-Mable took Edmonton,
and the social media world, by storm.
One of the top-trending Twitter topics throughout the day in Canada — even entering the popular social media conversation in the United States — her quest to rescue Ference and capture the dastardly Mysterio ended up capturing hearts across the nation.
Here was this newly created version of Marvel Comics' much-loved character Spider-Man, whose web-shooters shot spider-web strings made of silly string, searching the city without hesitation.
But had it not been for one key player, Mable’s day may not have happened.
The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, was the magic behind the mystery for Mable on September 28, just two years after her cancer diagnosis.
“Like any wish, the idea for the wish itself comes from a wish child,” said Elizabeth Lopresti, Associate Director of The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Alberta and Northwest Territories Chapter.
“We ask each child what their one most heartfelt wish is and then we rely on the child to give us some details and give us an explanation of what it is they’d like to see.”
After Mable was referred and approved to receive a wish from the Foundation, she was told to dream big, and, much like when asked to spring to action, she didn’t hesitate.
If Batman has the bat cave, then Mable has the spider nest.
“Let me put it this way, if there’s something Spider-Man-ish, she’s probably got it,” said Lisa.
“In her room, she’s got two Spider-Man posters, she’s got Spider-Man drapes, she’s got Spider-Man blankets, she’s got Spider-Man sheets, she’s got two different stuffed Spider-Man’s, she’s got virtually any Spider-Man toy out there, plus all of the movies, plus all of the TV series from way back when, up until now.”
Mable’s fascination with the Marvel Comics fictional superhero dates back two years.
“That old 1967 (Spider-Man) theme song. Well, the first weekend she was in the hospital, one of the entertainers came around with their guitar and one of the kids wanted her to play the Spider-Man song,” said Lisa.
“Well Mable loves music, and it didn’t take long before she wanted to know more about this guy behind such a catchy song.”
It’s probably safe to say that Mable would be considered an expert on the webbed crusader. The more Mable delved into the world that was weaved, the more she became invested in Spider-Man.
“The more she read the comics, the more she would watch some of the old videos, the more she really liked him,” said Lisa.
Who knew two small words could have such a big impact? But, when you’re six years old, anything is possible… isn’t it?
“We’ve been working with Mable for maybe about a year and a half, two years…and she knew that she wanted her wish to involve Spider-Man, but she was in the middle of her treatment still,” said Lopresti.
While Mable continued battling her internal super-villain, she couldn’t stop talking about the wish at home with her family and mentioned, “Wouldn’t it be cool to fight crime and swing through the air like Spider-Man?”
“I thought this isn’t going to happen, there’s no way this is going to happen,” said Lisa.
“I told her, ‘We could maybe get you to spend a couple of hours with Spider-Man but anything more than that, sorry love — villains just don’t seem to cooperate when it comes to scheduling.’”
But a vision was sparked, and Children’s Wish was listening intently.
The biggest challenge they faced in planning the wish: don’t tell Mable.
“We couldn’t tell her until the day of. She didn’t know what her wish was going to be, which was kind of backwards of how we usually grant wishes,” said Rego.
The Foundation started developing the concept of how Mable’s day would unfold, and enlisted the help of Mable’s parents, who had to tactfully talk around the subject of the wish at home, so as not to spark Mable’s spider-senses.
“A lot of those questions you could sort of sneak in on different parts of conversation. When it comes to her favourite characters in Spider-Man, and favourite villains, those can come up as little debates while she’s watching the show,” said Lisa.
“Some of the other things, you just hope that you can manage to get those into conversation without her catching onto something.”
In planning all the different activities and characters that Children’s Wish wanted for Mable’s wish, they enlisted the help of the local volunteer group C3: Caring Character Cosplay.
“We had some great ideas from the cosplayers and from Mable’s parents to make the story,” said Lopresti.
“Whenever we had sort of a plot-point location, or we needed an activity, they would let us know what things Mable was interested in — and one of Mable’s favourite things in Edmonton is the Oilers.”
Mable loves hockey, especially the Oilers.
“Unfortunately, based on her age and the time most of the games are at, she hasn’t had too many chances to go to many live, so most of the time we’ve had to watch the replays the next day during the child-friendly hours,” said Lisa.
“We knew we wanted to involve the Oilers in her wish some way, and it turned out that when we approached them, they had suggested that Andrew would love to be involved,” said Lopresti.
Children’s Wish approached Oilers Entertainment Group and the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation with an idea as to how they could incorporate Mable’s favourite team into her wish.
“We took a chance,” said Rego.
|Photo by Meg Tilley |
“We asked for something that was realistic and the Oilers gave us something that we could have never even dreamt about.”
When the Children’s Wish team told Lisa and Neil about the Oilers involvement, the impact registered a shocked reaction.
“We were kind of hoping that we might be able to get together with Spider-Man and do a few things. We had the idea of the ropes course and the zip-line and some of the other super hero training activities. That’s what we were originally kind of looking at. Then they said, ‘Well, what else can we do?’ And it started blowing our minds,” said Lisa.
It was a wish come true for Mable, but for Ference it was a rather unique experience.
“It was special,” said the Oilers defenceman.
“Right from morning, when she saw the newscast to come rescue me and you started to see the Twitter feed of all the pictures of where she’s going and what she’s doing and with people going and showing up to support her — at City Hall and West Edmonton Mall — all of those things, you just kind of smile. And like I said, to see the pictures of her having a good time, it was just special, it was exactly what I think they were trying to build up and it just worked out perfectly.”
According to Rego, the planning of the wish took roughly two to three months, piecing together how they wanted Mable’s special day to unfold.
“The Children’s Wish Foundation takes wishes very seriously and we want to ensure that it’s the child’s most heartfelt wish and that the child, at the end of the day, feels like their wish was granted,” said Rego.
“There were so many people that wanted to be on board and so many people wanted to help out…but it was really only in the last two weeks, before her big day, that things really started to come together.”
The kidnapping of Ference ignited a plea that rang throughout the city.
The players were in place, the script complete, all it needed was a hero, and Mable was the girl to do it.
“It was incredible seeing her focused, she had a job to do, she wants to do it, she’s so joyful and it was just like, ‘Wow, OK kid this is your day, lets run with it,’” said Lisa.
From City Hall to Edmonton’s Chief of Police to West Edmonton Mall (WEM), Spider-Mable was on the hunt.
Zip-lining across the WEM wave-pool to save a Spider-Man comic character favourite, anti-heroine Black Cat, Mable then received some vital superhero training on the ropes course at Galaxyland to prepare for her showdown.
When Mysterio made a cameo appearance on the amusement park train tracks, dropping a clue as to Ference’s whereabouts, Spider-Mable didn’t hesitate.
“I think he’s at the zoo!” she exclaimed to her own personal group of avengers.
Before long, Spider-Mable and her crew arrived to a crowd of supporters at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
The scene was set, Ference had to be here.
|Photo by Meg Tilley |
As Lucy the elephant led her into the park, providing her with one last clue that confirmed Spider-Mable’s theory, Mysterio made his grand entrance with a tightly bound Ference.
“Help me, Spider-Mable! Help me!”
In an instant, Spider-Mable was there with Spider-Man and Black Cat by her side. Slinging silly string web-spray to distract and apprehend her foe, Mable ran to Ference’s side to untie the knots that prevented him from fleeing.
“I was very grateful that she did that,” said Ference.
The city was overjoyed, Edmontonians were safe to walk the streets and the Oilers had Ference back. First on the scene to show his appreciation for all of her hard work was Ference's Oilers teammate, Connor McDavid.
“You’re never comfortable when a villain’s on the loose but thankfully someone like Spider-Mable’s out there looking out for us,” said the rookie.
From conquering cancer to battling villains, her bravery made the team whole again.
“It was unbelievable. I mean I didn’t really know what to expect coming here, seeing the crowd and everyone following her,” said McDavid.
“I think it just gives you a sense of how special someone like Mable is, to bring that many people together — and almost bring a country together, in some small way — it was really cool to see and we obviously couldn’t be happier for Mable.”
Though the job was complete, Spider-Mable was all business.
“Superhero or not, her first concern was that Connor and I get back to practice so we don’t get in trouble. She said, ‘You’d better get out of here and get to practice,’” said Ference.
The illusive super-villain Mysterio was caught and Ference was returned.
It made for — what many expected to be a routine workday — a magical Monday.
“The city really seems to have embraced Mable,” said Lopresti.
“We heard that Spider-Mable, on her wish day, was trending in over 55 countries, which kind of blew us away, but everyone in the city has been really inspired by her. They’ve really embraced her and rallied behind her in support.”
The pint-sized superhero, who found the child in many, was ready to return home.
“Watching her, I think she realized it was pretty special and wasn’t quite sure how to react at first, but knew that it meant she was expected to do something and she was determined to live up to it,” said Lisa.
To thank her for all of her hard work and bringing their captain back, the Oilers asked Spider-Mable to complete the official puck drop at the beginning of their pre-season game the following night.
“She was a little intimidated at the puck drop when she’d look up and see all these people — but it didn’t last long for her,” said Lisa.
“Not much intimidates her. She was pretty impressed with getting to go behind the scenes at Rexall and see everything that goes on. That was really unique, and she realizes that.”
Crested with the number 10, her dad’s number in hockey, Ference presented her with a newly minted Oilers jersey with ‘Spider-Mable’ emblazoned on the back.
It was a dream that became an unforeseen reality. The little girl that was whisked away to fight crime reunited the Oilers, saved a city and brought a nation together in one day.
“There are wishes and then there are dreams, but this was a dream come true. She was told to let her imagination run wild and it worked,” said Lisa.By Meg Tilley/Edmontonoilers.com