By Todd Franko
“Can I help you beat up bad guys?”
That’s what Youngstown’s Jayden Barber asked actor Christian Bale in California’s Disneyland this week.
His mom, Charlee Barber, said it was one among many special moments in a whirlwind trip for Jayden and his family.
The 5-year-old has captured the hearts of Mahoning Valley residents with his cancer battle.
He was diagnosed as a terminal cancer patient in July, and while his most recent tests have shown some remission, Jayden’s been there before.
The family is happy, but cautious.
His diagnosis, however, launched Charlee and dad, Tim, on a pursuit of Jayden’s wishes.
One of those wishes was to meet the real Batman.
The community joined the effort as 30,000-plus supporters took part in Facebook’s “Lighting the Batsignal for Jayden” page.
The Barbers flew this week to California to spend a few days at Disneyland in Anaheim.
Part of their stay was spending three hours Wednesday with Bale, the star of this summer’s hit film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
“We talked about lots of stuff,” Charlee said. “But a lot of it was Jayden and Christian talking the whole time. It was just really awesome. He genuinely cared about Jayden and our situation.”
Bale and Jayden chatted about costumes, the movie and more, Charlee added.
Bale, a native of England, even explained to Jayden why his voice is different in person than in the movie.
The three hours with Bale and his wife and daughter was special, Charlee said. But Bale made sure their entire four days was special, too.
As a guest of Bale, the family:
Had airfare for seven people.
Stayed in a top suite in the Grand Californian.
Had all food and extras paid for, including a $500 gift store account.
Saw the “Batman Live” stage performance and went backstage to meet the cast.
“We were treated like royalty, and it was all because of Christian,” Charlee said.
Their biggest challenge: Not being able to say a word for two weeks.
The family found out about the trip not long after the Aug. 23 Batman special event at Boardman Middle School, where a team of well-wishers put on a super-heroes show for Jayden and a stadium full of people.
It was complete with a lighted bat signal in the sky.
“[Bale] strictly wanted no publicity during or before but said we could share afterward. He went to great lengths to keep it private. It was just like old friends visiting,” Charlee said.
The trip actually was launched by one of “Jayden’s Warriors,” the many people who follow the Jayden story.
Lisa Lewis Wallace of Greenford Christian Church, who has yet to meet the Barbers, read about them just before the Boardman event.
She’s part of a ministry within her church — Big Reach Center of Hope — and has done plenty of celebrity contacting to get autographed memorabilia. So she was comfortable calling celebrity offices.
But asking for a celebrity visit was a first.
“I honestly was not going to call his office,” Wallace said. “Everyone on [the “Lighting the Batsignal for Jayden”] Facebook page was calling, and I did not want to harass them.”
So she called actress Anne Hathaway’s publicist first. Hathaway portrayed Catwoman in the film.
“They were so nice; it gave me the courage to call Christian’s publicist,” she said.
It actually helped that hundreds of “Jayden’s Warriors” had called.
Wallace said by the time she called, they were eager to help so as to curtail the phone calls.
A week later, Bale’s office called back with the plan.
The Barbers returned to the Valley this weekend, and back to Jayden’s regimen.
His last bone-marrow test showed 99.6 percent donor source, Charlee said. The goal is 100 percent.
Last spring, he had hit 99.8 percent, only to have cancer take over again.
He will have weekly blood-work tests that will monitor his health.
“We’re very skeptical at this point,” Charlee added.