Using ‘the force’ against cancer

“Star Wars” fan clubs are more than a bunch of movie enthusiasts wearing costumes — they’re a bunch of humanitarians wearing costumes.

The “Star Wars” movie series began in 1977 as a popular film with a comparatively small budget, and became much more, for better or worse.

George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” has re-released the movies, turned them into an animated TV series and may convert them into a 3-D format. He created two sequels and three prequels, and has repeatedly added computer-generated imagery to enhance the older films.

As Lucas changes the series, the mania surrounding “Star Wars” increases, creating its own subculture. Fan clubs across the country bring people together with a common interest. Old-school fans reminisce about Darth Vader and Yoda before he was a cartoon, and younger fans play pod racing video games.

Recent “Star Wars” mania has been divisive among dedicated fans, but has also led to something everyone can agree on: helping their communities.

The Rebel Legion fan club, a worldwide group with various bases scattered across five continents, focuses on much more than just the movies. Its “Star Wars”-related purpose is for fans who enjoy making their own “light side” costumes, but the group has put just as much effort into giving to various charities as anything else.

The Rebel Legion’s “Mos Eisley Base,” which is Arizona’s group of Rebel Legion costumers, participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life April 17-18 at Red Mountain High School in Mesa, raising nearly $1,000.

“Our love for the ‘Star Wars’ saga and costuming helped to create a club of people with common interests, and while I enjoy putting on costume for fun, the charity work we do helps bind us together with a more meaningful purpose,” Carol Duckworth, commanding officer for the Mos Eisley Base, said in an e-mail. “Working with charities gives the Mos Eisley Base a chance to do some real good in the world, and to possibly make a difference that will help others have a better life.”

The Mos Eisley Base is not the only “Star Wars” club helping their community. The costuming groups began focusing so much of their energy toward charities when the daughter of Albin Johnson, the founder of the 501st Legion, a worldwide “dark side” costuming group with affiliates in six continents, was diagnosed with cancer. During her fight, costuming clubs across the country, light side and dark side, directed their energy toward supporting charitable causes like the American Cancer Society.

Despite their differences, the Rebel Legion light side costumers and the 501st Legion dark side costumers came together to help those struggling with cancer. After Johnson’s daughter lost her battle with cancer, both groups have continued to make a difference in the lives of those still struggling.

“Our costumes give us the ability to reach people and touch people and make them smile,” Crystal Bass, commanding officer for the Rebel Legion, said. “It gives us an extra reason to get to wear our stuff, too.”

So forget everything you learned from the “Star Wars Kid” YouTube video. These fans are proud to stand for something more than a movie.

While “Star Wars” may seem disappointing to some fans, it will always be able to bring people together — even the Jedi and the Dark Side. Even fans that disagree on the movies can agree on a common cause.

The force is strong in Jack. Contact him at jlfitzpa@asu.edu


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