Tom Hanks sent a special Toy Story video to formerly conjoined twins from Co. Cork.
Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf were born conjoined in December 2009. The boys were successfully separated a year later in a 14-hour operation. Since then, they have had to endure 52 surgeries, and they continue to face ongoing health challenges.
Tom Hanks was contacted through his representatives by Youghal ice cream shop owner Miceal O’Hurley, who worked in the US Congress and has links in the film industry.
The actor, who voices the character Woody, was touched to learn the boys, who are from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, have kept their cuddly Woody and Buzz toys with them through every operation.
After Hanks learned that the twins love Toy Story, he shot a short video at home for the boys. Wearing a red bandana like the Woody character and playing the Toy Story theme song ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ in the background, Hanks can be seen writing the boys names on the shoes of two Woody dolls in the video.
O’Hurley said: “We got the video at 3am and my wife Oksana and I sat up in bed in tears. The thoughtfulness. The kindness. The generosity of spirit of his act was extraordinary,” he said.
“I think what I love about Tom Hanks is that if he wasn’t a mega star, and he was the local guy in the hardware store, he would still go out of his way to be a decent person.
“Tom wanted the boys to know that he admires them and wants to be their friend.”
“Next time the boys are feeling low or stuck in a hospital bed they can flip on a video and be reminded that they are special. This is about lifting their spirits.”
Hanks also included a hand-typed letter with his signature in his gift for the boys.
O’Hurley said he and his wife are inspired by the resilience of the nine-year-old boy and the dedication of their parents, Angie and Azzedine Benhaffaf.
“What people don’t realize is the boys Dad, who was an extraordinarily talented chef, had to leave his job to care for the family. He and the boys Mom, Angie, are full time carers and they also have two other children.
“They go to London for surgeries. Some things are covered but the out of pocket expenses aren’t. On any given trip it costs them €2,000 to €3,000 out of pocket that they don’t get reimbursed. This family face adversity that people don’t even realize.”
“I am proud to know the boys and to call them my friends. They are an extraordinary family.”
More information about the boys can be obtained at https://www.facebook.com/benhaffaffoundation.