I’ve been writing (to be exact re-writing) a piece on my involvement with the UKGs charity work for the division newsletter. I’m not keen on doing this sort of thing, but was effectively blackmailed into it, as the first time I attempted anything like this it was radically cut down from the 450 words I’d written to about seven.
So in an attempt to prove I’ve not just been sitting about failing to update this blog and do an end run around anyone who’d censor the article again, here, in full is what’s been submitted, edited to protect the innocent…
Using his monthly quota of four paid hours he assisted volunteer group The UK Garrison, which includes “Make A Wish”, “Medicinema”, and “CHAS” amongst the charities here in Scotland which it supports, during their visit to Glasgow Science Centre.
From the age of four I’ve been a fan of the two and half good Star Wars films from the original trilogy, created by the well-known, large necked, American film director George Lucas in the late 1970s. Earning him an estimated US$20 millionth-billion, the universe he created has a status which extends beyond cult with thousands of followers the world over. By far the most popular group within the saga are the faceless legion of Imperial Storm troopers, easily identifiable by their gleaming white armour and their attack on a Rebel ship being the second iconic image in the first film after the immense Star Destroyer has rumbled overhead, it’s no surprise that they are what are most remembered from the series.
And (Lego sets aside) while very little else of worth has come out of the franchise from the point that a dwarf in a fur suit poked a spear at an unconscious Carrie Fisher, since 1997 devoted fans all over the world have lovingly sought to recreate all of the costumes from the films, which have never historically been commercially available and as a member of the Scottish contingent of the UK Garrison I am part of a larger network, which extends not only over our own country, but has members all over the world.
George Lucas takes a positive attitude to the work of the affiliated groups and that is down to our social commitment, and named one of the divisions of clone troopers in Episode 3: Revenge of The Sith after the worldwide parent organisation, the 501st Legion. While we seek not to profit from the costumes or activities we take part in, the organisation channels the funds we raise to different charities.
Although the majority are charity related or lead to a donation on our behalf from the organisers, the events we attend are wide-ranging. We work a great deal with sick children through organisations such as Medicinema, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Make a Wish Foundation, raising not only money for those groups but generating awareness within the community and interacting with the children directly benefitting from the charity. As well as all that, there are some high-profile events, for example the premiers of films which our group attend alongside the stars of the films, marching down the red carpet in front of the world’s media and huge crowds.
Possibly like some of you reading this, as an outsider to it all for over 18 months before becoming directly involved, even I tended to view my fiancées involvement with the group with a funny look, but like many others my level of respect for them soon changed when I witnessed the costumes up close and some of the good work they did for charity, making children (and adults) of all ages smile and forget their problems.
And sometimes those smiles are hard-won. I recall my first ward tour at Yorkhill Children’s Hospital a few years ago. This kind of event is never going to be upbeat. Many of the kids are confined to bed and are limited in their responses due to their condition, medication or treatment programs and the interactions we have are further limited by the need to be hygienically aware at all times too. Entering and exiting a ward means wiping clean everyone’s armour, gloves and guns, as well as the hands of those accompanying us. On the bright side though, I don’t think any of our costumes are ever as clean since coming out of their boxes as they are after a day of repeated buffing with non-alcohol wipe fluid.
It can be hard going emotionally as well as physically sometimes too. Attending places like CHAS’ Rachel House, in Kinross, where afterwards the grateful staff gave us a tour of their facilities… I mean intellectually, I knew what happens there but it’s not something you think too hard about but then when you’re standing in the Rainbow Room or you look along the corridor with the photos of the kids, particularly the ones with the butterflies or dragon flies in the corner indicating they’re no longer with us, it’s a different matter. That’s why regardless of actual time in costume, or how long the drive to and from an event is, it’s still worthwhile giving up our time to help them out and hopefully raise the profile and some future donations for these very worthwhile causes. And as I found there is always plenty of room for new recruits in the 501st UK Garrison…
You can also get more information on the group and their fund-raising activities at www.ukgarrison.co.uk
I’ll let you know what survives the censors scissors…