Coronavirus doesn't stop Montana boy's Star Wars-themed adoption, complete with lightsaber duel

Traci Rosenbaum, Great Falls Tribune

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A pair of Darth Vaders strode up the aisle of the Cascade County District Courthouse on Friday to the opening drumbeats of the Imperial March.

Where the prosecuting attorneys normally sit, twin lightsabers stood on the desk, ready for battle.

On a television screen that usually displays criminal hearings and trial evidence, "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" played in its full high-definition glory.

The title couldn’t be more appropriate because the day marked new hope for 12-year-old Alex Reyes, who was finally being adopted after multiple foster homes and a year with Pamela and Philip Reyes.

And, in the jury box, nearly a dozen siblings of all ages waited for Alex to officially become part of their family.

Alex and Judge Greg Pinski each took up their weapons and had a brief battle before getting down to the business of Alex’s adoption, and the triumphant "Star Wars" theme rang out as everyone signed the paperwork.

“You’ve got theme music, which is pretty cool. We’ve never had adoption theme music before,” Pinski said to Alex before making his final pronouncement.

“By the power vested in me by the Force, by the Empire, I’m going to approve your adoption, alright?”

The themed adoption ceremony was a first for Pinski, but he jumped in with both feet as soon as the family asked him a few months ago.

“They said, 'Alex has a special request for you.' And I said, 'OK,'” recalled Pinski. “And they said, 'He’s wondering if he can have a 'Star Wars' adoption because he’s seen you on TV and thinks you look like Darth Vader.' Because of the black robe, you know. And I said absolutely!”

Alexander Reyes, age 12, is sworn in along with his adoptive parents Philip and Pamela Reyes on Friday during a Star Wars-themed adoption ceremony performed by Judge Greg Pinski in the Cascade County Courthouse.

“We allow each of our kids to pick themes,” said Pamela. “(Alex is) a huge 'Star Wars' fan, and he decided to be Darth Vader.”

One of their other children had a princess adoption, and another plans an 1980s-themed celebration as she “punks out of foster care.”

Pinski was just as excited as Alex to put the plan in motion. His family took a Disney trip in January, and the judge brought home all the accessories to deck the courtroom and dress up as 'Star Wars'’ original antagonist.

“Everybody needs something positive in their life right now, and I can’t think of anything more positive than to have this family come together,” Pinski said. “Notwithstanding everything that is going on, this is their time to celebrate, and I couldn’t not be a part of their special day.”

Of course, in early 2020, no one expected the U.S. to be in a nationwide shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pinski made some adjustments to keep the celebration on the docket, limiting the ceremony to immediate family. He was surprised, though, by how many people “immediate family” included.

Married for almost 10 years, Pamela and Philip brought Alex into their home as a foster child about a year ago. The couple had a blended family of five boys when they decided to become foster parents.

“We actually were never going to adopt,” Pamela said. “We just started fostering kids because my husband thought that there was a need within the community. And here we are.”

Now, in addition to the children they’ve already adopted, they have guardianship of one child and are in the process of adopting three more.

Alexander Reyes, age 12, and Judge Greg Pinski, both dressed as Darth Vader, pose for photos after Reyes' Star Wars-themed adoption ceremony at the Cascade County Courthouse. Alex, a huge fan of Darth Vader, was officially adopted by Philip and Pamela Reyes on Friday.

The judge gave his staff credit for helping the celebration happen in addition to the enormous task of shuffling hearing dates and readying technology for online proceedings as the coronavirus changed the way the wheels of justice turned this month.

“With everything that’s in the headlines and just the crisis that we’re going through right now collectively as a community,” said Pinski, “to know that there’s good things that are happening, it just warms your heart.”

As for Alex, he didn’t have much to say.

He chatted for a little while about why “A New Hope” was his favorite "Star" Wars movie.

“It has a bunch of action,” he said. “Mostly my favorite character is Darth Vader.”

At the end of the ceremony, Pinski told Alex he could keep all the decorations and accessories from the courtroom, including a Vader mask, a photo frame and two lightsabers.

Alex planned to battle his brother when they got home and said he’s definitely going to win.

When asked what this day means to him, Alex replied, “It means the Force has awakened. I’m glad that I was Darth Vader. That’s all.”

Follow Traci Rosenbaum on Twitter @GFTrib_TRosenba.

This article originally appeared on Great Falls Tribune: Star Wars trumps coronavirus at Montana boy's adoption ceremony