How Amy Poehler Made a 'Parks and Rec' Superfan's Wish Come True

The Make-a-Wish Foundation enlisted Leslie Knope
Courtesy Joshua Ritter

Leslie Knope may have a passion for public speaking, but she left Joshua Ritter "speechless" when he found out he'd be spending the day on the set of Parks and Recreation.

Ritter and his family flew out to Los Angeles from Illinois thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which organized a day for them to hang out with Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, and other stars of the NBC show.

Ritter says the cast and crew made him feel like "family" — so much so that he felt comfortable enough to perform a rap about Poehler he'd written in homage to Poehler's Sarah Palin rap. Poehler liked it so much that she had someone record it on her phone.

"You can tell the difference when someone is being nice just to be nice and when someone is genuinely nice and caring," Ritter tells The Hollywood Reporter of Poehler. "It was really a huge surprise just how much she cared."

Ritter recently posted photos from the day on Reddit, where he also conducted an AMA about it.

The day was a dream come true for Ritter, a comedy fanatic who got to pick the brains of stars like Aziz Ansari — who stopped by to say hi even though it was his day off — and director Dean Holland and writer Matt Murray, both of whom chatted with Ritter in between takes.

Among the biggest surprises was Nick Offerman, whom Ritter says is exactly like his character Ron Swanson. One of the show's producers told Ritter it's hard not to laugh when Offerman calls from his car on the way to set, "because it sounds like Ron Swanson is calling."

Poehler continues to send Ritter and his family gifts, most recently a copy of Leslie Knope's book Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. Likewise, he has sent the Parks and Rec crew and stars mementos, including a picture form the visit.

"They like hearing from us and kind of keep us in mind," says Ritter.  

Ritter is currently a freshman at St. Louis University, where he studies business, with a concentration in leadership and change management. He's battling Von-Hippel Lindau syndrome, which has caused several tumors — including one in his spine which was removed and left him in a wheelchair.

Ritter has also given back to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where he received medical care. In 2013 he raised $115,000 for the hospital through a direct mail campaign.

He's hoping sharing his story might inspire people to donate to Make-a-Wish.

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