In March on this very fine site, we talked about the Star Wars actors (Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher) and their lives since those days. And we’ve also talked about the enthusiasm (although I fear that is not nearly a strong enough word) of the very dedicated Star Wars fans and their particular devotion to and attendance at the annual Star Wars Weekends held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando during May and June.
The Star Wars Weekends (which I happened to experience once – by chance, I promise you – while attending a convention in Orlando) allow fans to meet characters from the movies (lesser known characters, usually, but famous to the legions of Star Wars fans), get autographs, buy unique memorabilia and dress up in their favorite Star Wars costumes to make their way through the parks.
The dedication and enthusiasm to Star Wars by its fans are well known but it was recently brought to my attention that there are 2 unique entities, the Rebel Legion and the 501st Legion, that not only work with its members on developing authentic costumes based on the Star Wars movies to participate authentically in events like The Star Wars Weekends but also do a lot of charity work. Some back story first.
The 501st Legion is comprised mostly of costumed fans that embrace the dark side of the Star Wars legacy. They had appeared for a number of years at sci-fi conventions and fantasy events worldwide in the guise of Stormtroopers, Sith Lords and Imperial Officers. According to the Rebel Legion’s website, the Rebel Legion was formed “much like the fictional Rebel Alliance” as a reaction to the 501st Legion because there was no costuming organization for people wanting to be Jedi Knights or Rebel Pilots of even the heroic Star Wars characters like Hans Solo. While they co-exist peacefully (unlike the characters in the Star Wars movies) and while some members belong to both groups, they each have their own method of screening and accepting members. (Far too long for me to tell you about but you can find membership standards on their respective websites). But now on to the good that they do.
The 501st Legion describes its mission as being an all-volunteer organization designed to bring together Star Wars costume enthusiasts. But they also use the wearing of their costumes at Star Wars-related events to do volunteer and charity work. They never charge a fee for a personal appearance by a costumed member, although they do suggest that you can make a donation in their name to one of the charities they support and list a large number of charities – mostly related to children – on their website, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Toys for Tots, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and The Salvation Army.
The Rebel Legion will provide costumed members to visit hospitals, attend fundraisers and participate in charity and community causes. As with the 501st Legion, many of their charity associations are related to the needs of children, like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and Children’s Miracle Network.
I know there will be people who think that these types of organizations may take their passion for Star Wars a little too seriously. But how can you argue with the good works they perform and the joy they bring to so many others while in costume? The Star Wars phenomenon is not likely to ever go away (heck, we’ve got a bunch of new Star Wars movies on the horizon, thanks to Disney) so if dedicated costumers can pursue their interest in Star Wars and spread some happiness to others, bravo to them.