Hero Behind the Mask: Skyman

This month’s interview is a little different than my usual interview. This month I interviewed a Real Life Super Hero in my local community instead of a CAUSEplayer. This man has a heart of gold and truly makes a difference in his community. He recently had his birthday and instead of throwing himself a party he arranged a homeless outreach event. As you can see by this example he is truly an inspiration regarding his community and we can all copy a page from the Book of Skyman! Here is to you Skyman! I can’t wait to continue following your adventures!-Mala

interview pic 1

Can you please describe for the readers what a real life super hero is? 
What is a Real-life Superhero (RLSH)? Well, there are a lot of definitions swirling about the internet and definitely Wikipedia! I’m going to give you the definition that I find relevant for myself and the others that I interact with through social media. An RLSH is one that has developed a superhero persona of their own creation that isn’t part of any canon of comic-books. We are our own creations, yet with a nod to the inspiration we get from comic-books.

The costume is intended to either be intimidating or inspiring depending upon what your purpose is. Some wear the mask to keep their personal lives private and some wear it to continue with the iconic imagery that the comic-book superhero has. Now does the ‘secret identity’ really work in the real world? Not so much, however I do know some that have kept up the separation and we don’t know their real names. To them I have much respect… some do have lives that need to be kept.. secret.

Having created a persona with a name and individual costume we travel outside in the real world attempting to make real change in our neighborhoods. An RLSH’s given ‘work’ is only limited by the groundings in reality… we don’t have superpowers! The stereotypical work is primarily through neighborhood watch patrolling and seeking out the ‘criminal element’ At least that’s the hope! Never really happens though, being in the right place at the right time to intervene in a physical altercation or anything related that needs de-escalation is few and far between.

13308202_10156914301950398_5632350031989364120_o

What inspired you to become a super hero?
Well, its been an evolution of my personality really. You see, back in Junior High in football I was given the nick-name of ‘SkyMan’ as my first name is Skyler. It stuck. When I was diagnosed with a mental illness in my teenage years I needed something to help quell the personal demons I was battling. So I turned to back to my childhood of superhero comics and cartoons. From there I created the inner personality of SkyMan to help Skyler survive the bouts of depressive suicidal idiation and manic cycles.

It was only in 2010 that I stumbled upon the movement/concept/community of the Real-life Superhero. I was still battling the demon of alcoholism that Ive been struggling with for 20 yrs now and one afternoon of drinking was watching the Watchmen movie DVD Boxed set. There was a documentary attached to it entitled “Real Superheroes, Real Vigilantes”

Of course I immediately Googled the term and then found the online movement and saw that there are people that actually do this in real world situations.

What does being a local super hero mean to you?
I truly believe being an RLSH should be a beacon of hope and inspiration. I guess you could say I want to hearken back to the Golden Age of superheroes that were colorfully clad and had high ideals. I also believe that being a member of your locality is where one should start. I live in a major metropolitan area and can spread myself out a bit. The Greater Seattle area is where I operate and am from and live in a suburb. Hailing from Federal Way I have, over the years, become a bit of a local notable. I attend and volunteer at events around town, show up to community led charity walks, been featured in the local newspaper, and have even shown up at City Council meetings to lobby for issues that I find important. I do some neighborhood watch in my community but have found it difficult over the years to fully develop a strategy to defend my local turf.

13244009_10156890005240398_3244628729656441128_o

What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?
Simple and grandiose answer? To save the world, of course!

I know that’s not entirely doable for just one man in some handcrafted armor and some colors though… Really, I want to get to a place where I am happy to live my own life. To have a life worth living. I’m not there yet and some 6 yrs in I don’t expect to be anytime soon. I call myself a ‘crusader’ Well, my crusade is that SkyMan continuously improve Skylers life. Its a selfish answer but its the one I live by.

What differences have you made?
Over my career as a ‘costumed activist’ I’ve foiled a few crimes in progress, saved a life or two by being in the right place at the right time and many, MANY, acts of charitable kindness. I’ve helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homeless stay alive one more night through the homeless kits and supplies I’ve given out; paid for out of my own pocket mostly. I’ve shared my own personal struggles of battling mental illness and substance abuse with many people by sharing my own ‘experience, strength, and hope.’ Most importantly, being SkyMan and doing the work of an RLSH, being committed to a cause greater than myself, has saved my life on more than a few occasions by not succumbing to my depression.

12967372_10156724831320398_4348722396464413759_o

How do you keep yourself safe while patrolling?
I made one rule for myself that I’ve pretty much adhered to over the years;
‘Never patrol alone’. Does it mean I get out there on the ‘mean streets’ less than Id like?

Of course. But I’ve always believed that there is strength in numbers and you cant have eyes in the back of your head or keep your situation awareness up constantly. Our heads weren’t born on a swivel.
I do carry a fully stocked and functional utility belt that carries personal self-defense devices; pepper spray, baton, and stun knuckles It also has a fully stocked trauma rated First Aid kit. So I don’ t go out on patrol without the ‘tools of the trade’ However, I’ve been in patrolling groups where the others I’m working with carry enough protection for the lot of us so I’ve been known to only go out in my armor.

I also wear a Level IIIa bullet-resistant vest. For many years I operated without one to prove the point that you don’t have to have it to do the work… also, its always been outside my budget and very hard to find plus sizes. I lucked out around Christmas last year as one of my teammates picked up the tab on a functional vest he found for me. So after many years I do have one that I wear for patrol and crowd control purposes.

11705289_10155823972480398_6772452940793288954_n

Do you feel that others can be super heroes without a costume? If so, why?
I feel that we all have the ability to emulate the compassion, tenacity, and true heroism that the comic-book inspired superheroes show us. The costume, or super-suit as we call it in the RLSH community, is just the tool we use to draw attention to ourselves. To be a true superhero get outside yourself and do something for others. Whether its as brave as helping to feed the homeless or something as simple as smiling to your neighbor…. that’s enough.

How long have you done this in your community?
SkyMan the Tri-Colored Crusader was given form on Arbor Day 2010 in a local park where he helped with trail maintenance and planting.

13147387_10156816488190398_1958597021231434577_o

What advice do you have for becoming a real super hero?
Advice for somebody wanting to join the RLSH Community and to become one?
First, do some cursory research on what you are passionate about and search for your inner heroes identity. Do plenty of internet research into the people involved in the movement and read about us and what we do. Why? There are always people coming and going in the community that I find it troublesome that the lack of research and examination isn’t done.

Also, please try and be creative with your persona. There are a lot of black-clad ninja looking folks out there that think they have to be Batman and skulk in the shadows. I’m here to tell you as one of the more experienced, seasoned, and active RLSH out there that that mindset and attire don’t work. Its not in the imagery of the iconic golden-age era of superheroes that wanted to present a friendly image to the general populace. I understand that names and creativity are difficult… but nobody said that being a superhero was simple, much less easy!

12657792_1274727542543165_5779706331321269923_o

Favorite Comic Character: Captain America! Sure, Steve was given the super-soldier serum that turned him into a super-strength powered person but before that the tenacity and patriotism of the scrawny youth was what made him a real hero.

Least favorite comic character and why? Superman! He is an alien from another planet trying to fit in when we all know he cant. His a God among mere mortals and is an anomaly.

Favorite Book: How to be a Superhero by NightRider. Its one of the very first published manuals out there and documents the very early days of the RLSH Community.

Favorite Video Game: I grew up on Super Mario Bros. And my SNES.

Favorite Convention: Emerald City Comic Con… even though its become a larger than life event. I’m going to stay loyal as I won my 4 day pass this past year.

Affiliations (clubs or groups): I’m a member of a local team of RLSH in the greater Seattle area, the Emerald City Heroes Organization (ECHO)

Facebook: is the one major form of social media I participate in on a daily basis.
https://www.facebook.com/skyler.nichols

Twitter: SkyMan253

Advertisements

Hero Behind the Mask: Erika Earl

I am please to share with you the first of the Heroes Behind the Mask series for 2016! Since I am also writing for Cosplayer Among Us Magazine this will only be a monthly release.

I am very excited to introduce you to Erika! She teamed up with the amazing and kind hearted owner of the Penalty Box in Salt Lake City to raise money for a cause near and dear to her own heart! They were very successful! Keep reading to find out just how successful her event was! Not only has she found time to raise money for a great cause but this cosplayer also works with Salt Lake Comic Con in additional to her other life obligations! She was kind enough to talk about all these busy things in her life!-Mala

 photo Fairy2_zpssz9fafe9.jpg
Name: Erika Earl

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
The people that I get to Causeplay with

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
The events get better each time and it’s fun to see the progress.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
It was a Make A Wish Dreamnight at the Hogle Zoo

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why? It depends, if it’s for children definitely my fairy.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment(s) : All of the Causeplayers on the Carousel at the zoo together.

What is your favorite cause to support and what have you done for them? I personally fund raise for the National MS Society because I have MS and it is a cause that means a lot to me.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I can’t really think of anything I consider silly. Everything is fun if you look at it the right way.

Who inspires you in life or cosplay?
All of the cosplayers I know inspire me in cosplay. In life I’m inspired by anyone who has the courage to be their true self.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: Don’t be afraid to beg.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
Nothing until next year that I know of but you never know what will happen.

You recently had a CAUSEplay event what is your event called? We change the name every year but it relates to MS and Cosplay

Why did you choose MS for this event?
I was diagnosed with MS over 12 years but because I don’t look sick it’s really hard to spread awareness. All of the money raised went to the national MS society 

Why did you choose to host this at the Penalty Box and how do you think this choice influenced your events success?
Bill Rowe is a good friend and Neff Michael’s fund raising enthusiasm is inspirational. There are no two people I would rather work with more for this event. (Note from Mala, Neff was previously interviewed for his own CAUSEPlay efforts so please check out that interview as well!)

 photo Capture_zpsx4wtqg60.jpg Please tell us the process to making this event happen.
This year was a little easier because it wasn’t the first time around. After getting in touch with Bill and Neff and getting the okay to have the event at the penalty box I rounded up raffle donations, I had help from friends and Geek Hangout Utah on that. Salt Lake Comic Con created the flyer that I both posted and passed out and from there it was pretty easy.

What would you say was unique about your event ?
We try to incorporate as much orange for MS as possible. This year we had orange mardi gras beads and orange glow sticks. Most of the pictures had some form of orange.

How much did you raise for MS in total?
We raised $1701.00 in two nights.

Do you see yourself doing something like this again?
I do, next year we will be back.

If someone is interested in creating an event like yours what advice do you have?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to get told no and keep going.

You mentioned that you also volunteer for Salt Lake Comic Con, tell us what you do for them? What is it like?
I am the Director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con, It is the most amazing job I have ever had. I thrive on chaos and love the event so much.

How important are volunteers for conventions from your perspective? The volunteers are incredibly important for the event. With such a large group of volunteers you would probably be surprised at haw hard each one of them works.

Salt Lake Comic Con seems to have a heavy focus on cosplay, how do you think that has shaped the Utah cosplay community?
It has made everyone feel welcome and as if they have a place in the event.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer? Cosplayer

What was your first costume/cosplay? A Zombie

What is your dream cosplay?
There are a lot of them but a Mandalorian is pretty high on the list

How do you feel you have influenced the cosplay community?
I hope I’ve convinced new people to join the community.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I’m an executive secretary at a cancer hospital and I am the director of volunteers for Salt Lake Comic Con

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I like the jobs I have [Symbol]

Tell us something random about yourself: I have more pets than any one person should probably have and I love them all.

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars

Marvel or DC: DC

Favorite Comic Series: Batman

Favorite Comic Character: The Joker

Least favorite comic character and why? Superman, he just annoys me

Favorite Book: Coraline or the Graveyard Book

Favorite Video Game: Plants versus Zombies (any of them)

Favorite Convention: Salt Lake Comic Con

Facebook: Erika’s adventures in Cosplay

Batkid Begins (2015)

bk_fb

I am very excited about this blog. And because of my excitement I am not going to rate this documentary. It is too great in my opinion. This is the first blog that my passions (the various aspects of my blog) get to merge! My family can attest to my passion for movies. They can also attest for my love of costumes. And the joy I have gotten for using my hobby to make a positive impact on my community. Just recalling the few confirmed moments that I made a difference in someone’s life makes me happy.

I remember when the story this documentary is about went viral. This documentary shows the journey taken to make a child’s dream of becoming Batman for a day come true. This is why I CAUSEplay! To make someone smile. To make a difference in that persons life. You may not think that running around in costume can make a difference but in the eyes of a child it can. Some children are too sick or the families too poor to go to somewhere like Disneyland. For them to see their childhood hero, their idol, can make a difference in their lives. It might not seem much to you as an adult but that moment can capture the child’s imagination and give them hope. Something positive to look back on. And for some kids can give them the a little bit of change in their life.

1118-batkid-maw-getty-redesign-2I dream of getting to work with Make-A-Wish! To make that difference again. I have had many friends get this opportunity. I won’t deny my jealousy of this.  It is one of the most cited positive memories and reasons why people CAUSEplay.

I learned so much about Make-a-Wish with this  documentary. And what it takes to make a wish happen. Even on a small scale there is a lot of work. This is an organization that works hard to make a difference one kid at a time. As they say in this documentary, to give back a little bit of the childhood taken away by illness and cancer.

Just as an FYI, I may be extremely biased toward this documentary in many ways. I also have a Masters in Public Administration where I studied nonprofits and disability studies, so I totally geeked out in many aspects of this documentary getting a behind the scenes look at Make-a-Wish. Especially when all those years of school helped with understanding the implications of this wish/event had for the organization and the City of San Francisco who helped make this happen.

milespage

The newspaper that a San Francisco company made to assist with this wish.

The most amazing thing about this wish is how it effected the world. Through social media people were able to experience the wish at the same time as the Madke-A-Wish recipient. The sense of community and love this wish inspired is truly amazing. How many people, complete strangers, came together for one child. Not only to make the wish happen but to help the family out after. A sense of community was created in San Francisco that day and how many people brought it up in interviews is truly inspiring. The most inspiring part to me is that one simple childhood dream affected so many of us.

The enthusiasm of each interviewed person brought tears to my eyes. You could see this wish bringing out the inner child in everyone involved. So many people joined in different creative ways to make this the most memorable day possible. I often wonder where our world would be if we weren’t socialized to suppress our imaginations. Forced to give up our dreams because of needing health insurance, needing to work a job you care nothing for to have a place to live or put food on the table. What if we could dream big and achieve it? What if we could all be Batkid?

This documentary makes you happy. If you need something to make you feel good and inspired to make a difference watch this documentary.

Batkid Begins Facebook.
Batkid Begins website.
Make-A-Wish

Heroes Behind the Masks: Costumers With A Cause

OMG! Costumers With A Cause has some amazing costumes!  Between that and the fun they have at their events I struggles with selecting photos for this interview!!  These guys sure know how to have fun!  I know you will pic that up as you read through this great interview! In addition to that a few of the members were kind enough to answer a few questions so you can get to know them a little!  I hope you enjoy their interviews linked at the bottom!  –Mala
 photo group_zpszmcqkeyc.jpgGroup Name: Costumers With A Cause

Location(s): We started in the Orlando Florida area, I brought the group to the Chicago area 7 years ago. I have had costumers contacting me wanting to start up branches in New York, Ohio, Utah, South Carolina, and Los Angeles California

Mission Statement: Our mission is to work together with children’s charity organizations and charity events that promote community growth, unity, and hope for every child’s future. Together we believe that a world of difference can be made with a smile, photo or a single hello. It is our goal to utilize our talents to the best of our abilities in order to make a child’s day brighter.
 photo ww_zpskwmjjzd6.jpg

When was the group started? And by who?
I started the branch in the Midwest 7 years ago. Megan Barker started the organization originally in Florida

If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create Costumers With A Cause or CAUSEplay in general?
I have always supported and participated in charity events. I attended a Breast Cancer event that the 501st Midwest Garrison was at. I thought “hey, I am a costumer, I can do that too” My very next event I came dressed as Wolverine. I was friends with Megan in Florida where The CWC was created, and I asked her if I could use the group name in Chicago for Charity events and she happily agreed. I attended charity events in costume for the first 2 years by myself, but as my costuming family grew, I met several good hearted, like minded individuals. Now, we average 20 people in costume at every event we are able to attend,
 photo rocket racoon_zpsp5nuiz7z.jpg
Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? If not, do you consider yourself a charity group or just a group of friend who do good? And are you looking into getting a 501(c)3 status?
We do not currently have a 501(c)3, but we are actively looking into acquiring one. I do consider us a charity, as every single member is a volunteer and donates time, money and travel expenses to help raise money for any charity event we attend.

How can someone join Costumers With A Cause?
Contact us through the E-mail on our webpage, or contact us through Facebook.
 photo magneto_zpsdpvgegdi.jpg
What type of costumes do you accept?
We accept any costumer who has a giving heart, and someone who works well and is non judgemental of others.

Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
Many of our members make their own costumes, myself included. Everyone in our group is helpful and friendly, and willing to help anyone getting into costuming with advice and many will even give their time to help others with making costumes.

How many people are currently in your group?
Our private facebook page has over 600 members, but perhaps only about 200 of them are active costumers in our Midwest area organization.
 photo pyramid_zpsoj48tcns.jpg
How is the leadership determined?
Although, right now, I am the Midwest Regional President. I organize most of our events, but I rely heavily on other members of the group who are very active in the charity work. I could never continue to do this all by myself. Truly, we are a giant team and we are all responsible for making our midwest group successful

What have you done for charities (types of events)?
I believe we have participated in almost every type of charity Fundraiser, We have done Hospital visit, and parades.

Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
We have always attended events that were close to our members hearts, other events have been by request. However, this year we are hosting our first ever event. We are hosting a 1.5 mile walk fundraiser for St Jude childrens hospital. The event is April 3rd at the Volo Auto Museum in Mchenry Illinois
 photo kids in capes_zpsf2ltb4zg.jpg
How did you build you “clientele”?
Social Media and we have gotten several requests to appear after attending Parades in several towns.

Do you have particular organization or cause you work with regularity?
Not really, we have worked with all of the Childrens Hospitals in the Chicago Area, we have attended events for MS, MD, Breast Cancer, Children’s Leukemia, ALS, Autism, and many more.
 photo green and barf_zpsnbzajkvv.jpg
How much money has the Costumers With A Cause raised for the organization it works with?
I honestly have never kept track. Anytime we do an event we set up a donation page with that specific charity. Since we are not a 501(c)3 we do not accept donations ourselves, so we always ask that donations be made directly to the charity we are volunteering for at the time.

What is the most amazing thing Costumers With A Cause has accomplished so far?
The Happiness I see when we are at events is beyond anything I could describe. Both in Adults and Children.
 photo holidays_zpsyt0bvrk1.jpg
Where do you see Costumers With A Cause going in the future?
I am hoping we can continue to grow nationwide. Definitely hope to become a 501(c)3, and continue to move forward with hosting our own events, as well as continue to attend the events we already do.

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
It is tough, it is a lot of work, but if your heart is in the right place, you can do it and you will be surprised to find all of the people in your areas wanting to join you.

What future events do you have?
May 3rd : MS Walk in Naperville Illinois. For more info click here.
May 9th : Tough Mudder Chicago.
May 16th : Muscular Dystrophy Walk at Catigny Park. For more info click here.
 photo cruella_zpsep5rm5wc.jpg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CostumersWithACause

Website: http://www.costumerswithacause.org/

Twitter: @MidwestCWC

Email: costumerswithacause@gmail.com

Getting to know members of Costumers With A Cause: Scott Whipple

Getting to know members of Costumers With A Cause: Matthew Rzepka

​​Getting to know members of Costumers With A Cause: Anthony Vernon AKA Pally Kashra
 photo als walk_zpsogzaesw0.jpg

How to get into CAUSEplay

How to get into CAUSEplay

Written by Adventures With Mala
Edited by Harleys Vintage Kisses

There are many options to get into CAUSEplay. This will have some recommendations, but please keep in mind there are many ways to use your costumes to give back to the community.   Hopefully this will get the wheels turning and inspire you!

You may be asking why you should listen to me. At the risk of sounding conceited, there are several reasons. First, while living in Utah I participated with H.E.R.O.I.C., Inc. for nearly two years. Second, before joining this organization, I volunteered, in my community without costume, in several aspects. Third, I am currently finding ways to CAUSEplay in my new community. In other words, I am living what I am writing about. Finally, I have a Master’s in Public Administration where I studied nonprofit organizations.

So, how can you get involved? The first, and easiest, way to get involved is to see what groups may be in your area. Each group will have its own acceptance process and policies. I highly recommend contacting the group to find out their process AND the requirements to keep your status with the group. For example, how many events must you attend to maintain your status with the group? What are their expectations? Does their overall mission and purpose fit with your goals? What are their costume requirements? Once you know the expectations evaluate if this fits your life and individual expectations. If everything says green light, then congratulations, you are now involved in CAUSEplaying!

There are many organizations out there that participate in a CAUSEplaying capacity. All of the Star Wars costuming clubs do fundraising and other forms of CAUSEplay, though they do not call it this. There may be a superhero or Disney princess group in your area, Harry Potter club, Ghostbusters, Resident Evil Hives, Star Trek (though I have not heard of this group being active in a CAUSEplay capacity), and so many more! Please note I will be compiling a list and information of various groups, their locations, and websites to publish on this site at a later date. If you have one to bring to my attention please let me know because I know there are many I am not aware of!

If no group exists in your area you can create your own. This can be a very time consuming and frustrating process. In essence you will be creating a small business. If you want to take donations directly I recommend that you file for a nonprofit organization 501(c)3 status in order to have a Tax ID people can donate to. This will protect you legally and add legitimacy to your cause. Otherwise you will have to partner with an organization with an established Tax ID for taking donations on their behalf. Before you take on a feat like establishing an organization or group make sure you are up for the challenge and have a good support system. Find people with a similar interest and passion to carry the load with you. This will make managing events easier and can attract new people to your group. If you are not sure where to start with this look for books on starting a nonprofit organization and reach out to other groups to find out how they created their groups. As mentioned above each group has different policies. You can always review the policies and decide what works best for you.

If the idea of a group does not work for you, or you do not want to start one, then you will have to create opportunities yourself. As we speak I am doing just this by creating a toy drive for a local homeless shelter. Something like this can be done with a community partner (a.k.a. a local business). For example, a comic book, hobby, or toy store. H.E.R.O.I.C., Inc. in Utah allies with Hastur Games & Comics each year to help Toys for Tots. I have allied myself with a local toy store that I frequent. I recommend that you establish a relationship with the company before you approach them with this idea. It will increase the likelihood of them agreeing, because they know you. If you do not know anyone personally maybe a friend does who would be willing to act as a reference and facilitate this conversation. Keep in mind that drives are not limited to toys. You can arrange a food, clothing, or school supply drive. The purpose of the drive should focus on the needs of the charity you are assisting.

With Christmas just around the corner the bell ringers will also be out. You can volunteer your time to help them out, as well. Just make sure they are aware you will be doing this in costume and that they are okay with this since you will be representing their organization. People will notice the costumes and ask what you are doing. Also, getting their picture with a hero increases the likelihood of donations.

If a drive or bell ringing do not seem like the perfect fit you can always approach an organization you care about to find out what fundraising efforts, festivals, walks, or events they have coming up and if your services might be useful. Sometimes organizations have a super hero themed event where having people in costume would add to the experience. One of my favorite annual events as a member of H.E.R.O.I.C., Inc. was with a local library’s program for children with disabilities. Each year they have a super hero themed event where we interacted with the children. They had various activities that helped increase dexterity, cognitive, and social skills. The kids were learning and practicing skills, without even realizing it, while hanging out with their favorite heroes!

Some people will argue that showing up to an event does not count as a charity, I would like to remind you of the story I just shared and how we helped the children get involved at the library event. It is important to remember that most nonprofits utilize volunteers to meet the missions because this reduces the need for staff and the overhead costs. By volunteering your time you ARE helping the organization! If you help provide a fun environment at a walk or other event then participants are more likely to attend again, increasing the rate of donations and volunteerism for that organization.

Other methods of CAUSEplay can be bringing attention to a cause or organization. This is something that can be helpful for a nonprofit organization. A great example of this is Cosplayers for a Cure in Canada who use the convention environment to bring attention to Breast Cancer. Just by talking and advertising for an issue you are helping an organization and a cause. Recall the attention Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) received from the viral videos of the ice bucket challenge. Though not necessarily a CAUSEplay event, I participated in costume and challenged my costume friends to do this in costume as well. Even if people didn’t donate the nation was talking about this chronic disease and learning that it is not called Lou Gehrig’s disease and that there is more to it. How many of you googled to see what exactly ALS was when you first saw the videos?

There are even simpler ways to CAUSEplay. If you make props you can always see if Make-A-Wish has a need for something you make. For example, MKF Props made a Star Wars Mandalorian bucket (helmet) and donated it to make a kid’s wish come true. You can always see if your local children’s hospital or Make-A-Wish chapter would be interested in your assistance. Keep in mind that organizations like this are very picky about who they involve due to the sensitive nature of who they serve. You may have to submit for a background check before you can fully work with them. You may also be asked to not wear your mask on the hospital property. It never hurts to ask and find out how to be involved!   Some of my friend’s favorite, or proudest CAUSEplay moments, involve a terminally ill child. Though it tugs at their heart strings they have never regretting giving up an afternoon to put a smile on that kid’s face.

Due to things in my life and having to make real adult life a priority, starting my own costume charity organization has been very slow going. But, I still want to give back to my community while I figure this out. Because of this desire I have decided to start selling prints with a percentage of the proceeds being donated to a charity. I plan to change who benefits from this every three months, once I get it up and going. You can do something like this or donate a portion of your profits from prop making. Another option is donating costumes or services to an organization to auction of as a fundraising effort.

Get creative! There is so much more you can do! Go to a library and see if you can read a story to kids in your costume or help teach them to read. There are nonprofits that focus on education of preschool kids that may also be interested in something like this. You can even get involved as you!

Let me know how you are getting involved! I want to hear your stories!! Or tell me about a CAUSEplayer or a group you think are making a difference! Email AdventuresWithMala@gmail.com with your stories! If sending info on an individual person please let them know you have done so, to reduce the creep factor of a stranger contacting them for a potential interview.

CAUSEplay: Cosplay for a Cause, True Heroes of Cosplay

 photo 1457499_10202363191059626_499741980_n_zps81c6191c.jpg

Most people have heard of cosplay but fewer have heard or understand CAUSEplay. If you are reading this chances are you know what cosplay is. In case you don’t, this is short for costume play and involves wearing a costume while acting like that character. More frequently it is just dressing as a character or in an inspired fashion. With the recent increase in popularity of geek culture this hobby has increased with it. CAUSEplay is a break off of cosplay where people use costumes for charity. This is also gaining popularity as costume clubs and 501c3 nonprofit organizations pop up all over the world. Even individual CAUSEplayers are even making a difference in their immediate communities.

Star Wars Costume Clubs like Rebel Legion and 501st Legion are some of the oldest organizations around involved in CAUSEplay, in fact they were doing it long before this phrase caught on. Just so you understand the structure of these groups these are international clubs divided regionally into garrisons for ease of management and accountability, this is very important because they represent Lucas Films. This also makes the level of their costume quality and expectations higher than a local group might have. If you are new to costuming and interested in joining one of these clubs make sure you review the costume requirements before making your costume to save yourself time and money. Each club has a strong charity aspect to it doing a variety of good for their communities. You can search for your local chapter’s Facebook page to see what they are doing.

Though the Star Wars clubs are among the oldest costume organizations there has been an influx in comic book focused groups such as Arizona Avengers and Comic Book Character for Causes, a 501c3 organization in Washington State. Some groups even accept Disney Princesses, movie characters, and video game characters like H.E.R.O.I.C., Inc., a 501c3 organization in Utah. But the groups do not stop here. The Resident Evil games and movies also have chapters, or Hives as they call them, that do the same type of charity work. There are organizations dedicated to Harry Potter, Ghostbusters, mermaids, pirates, and the list can go on and on. You think of a costume and chances are there is a charity organization or club out there!

 photo 149229_10201090311923998_1118415789_n_zpsce99d09d.jpg

Examples of fundraising include the Alpine Garrison (Utah’s 501st) raising $2,878.57 during Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 for the Peter Mayhew Foundation (petermayhewfoundation.org) to assist with medical costs for families that need assistance. At this same convention the Mandalorian Mercs’ Utah Chapter, Krayt Clan, worked with H.E.R.O.I.C., Inc. and Rogue Base (Utah’s Rebel Legion) to raise money for Make-A-Wish. I couldn’t find a total for all the groups involved in this but they did reach over $2,000 for the numbers I could collect. These same groups also fundraised during the Salt Lake City FanX 2014 convention for kids with the Utah Muscular Dystrophy Association to attend their summer camp. And during Rose City Comic Con the Cloud City Garrison (Oregon 501st) also raised money for Make-A-Wish. These are just some examples but there are many out there.

You may be wondering how they raise this money. It is simple, get your picture taken with your heroes and donate a few bucks! The 501st also does blast a trooper to raise funds. You have to have better aim than those stormtroopers after all. While raising money and awareness to a cause these dedicate individuals also bring a fun atmosphere!

 photo 1536722_10153641639220368_1923821858_n_zps2690eaf9.jpg

This fun atmosphere can assist in other charitable ways by bringing awareness to a cause; especially since nonprofits have limited resources for advertising and having “attractions” to bring people to their events. These types of events include local fundraising walks; after school, youth, or at risk programs; programs for children with disabilities like summer camp, festivals, or day programs; scouting activities, award ceremonies, or leadership training; library activities; toy drives, food drives or clothing drive; or anything that a nonprofit organization can think of to raise money, items, or awareness to their causes!

Recognized organizations like those listed above also have the amazing opportunity to help Make-A-Wish with requests. Seeing these kids smile and have a great time is one reason many CAUSEplayers site as to why they do this. If you are interested in working with Make-A-Wish please note that they prefer working with established and reputable groups due to the sensitive nature of what they do. It never hurts to reach out to your local Make-A-Wish and see if there is something you can do though!

You don’t have to be a big group to make a difference though. The Northwest Mutant Academy Costume Club of Washington is a small group of friends who does a lot of the same things listed above. They do it for their love of costumes and for the fun of it. One thing this group does on their own is a food drive to help out local people but they are always open considering an event if they are approached.

 photo NorthWestMutantAcademy_zpsbff6492c.jpg

You don’t have to be part of a group to CAUSEplay or make a difference in your community. Individuals can make a difference to. Last Christmas a CAUSEplayer reached out to the cosplay community to send Christmas cards to a terminally ill man with a disability because he loved super heroes. The response was over whelming as people from everywhere sent cards, pictures, and gift to this man. Though a brief moment in his life it brought him joy and showed the world how amazing the cosplay community can be. And this showed how something very simple can make a huge difference.

If you want to make a difference in your community you can! Create your own food or toy drive with the holiday season just around the corner. Homeless shelters and foster organizations are always in need of clothing, shoes, socks, coats, ext. and can use help in collecting these. Talk to your local library if they have any events you can help out with. Another thing you can make arrangements with nursing homes to visit the elderly. Or make a prop to donate for a Make-A-Wish request. Many nonprofit organizations have small budgets and are already running on budgets that do not allow them meet the needs of the population they serve. If there is a cause you are passionate about simple email or call the organization to see what they need help with. You don’t have to CAUSEplay to make a difference. You can be a hero without dressing like one, after all real heroes are inside us all.

 photo 734042_589384747740462_180942493_n_zps01190032.jpg

As you can see the groups that CAUSEplay are as varied as the ways they can assist their communities. The reasons people CAUSEplay are just as varied. Some do it to see the joy in kids eyes when they see a favorite character, to know they made a difference is someone’s life even if it was for a moment, others as a reminder that there is good in the world, some to make amends for mistakes they feel they have made, and others simply for the fun of it. There is no wrong reason to CAUSEplay but if you don’t do this, or something like it, maybe you should ask yourself why?

Look around and see how you can be a real hero in your community! If you are interested in more info on this stay tuned for my next post on how you can get involved in your community.

https://www.facebook.com/AdventureswithMala