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

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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

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Batkid Begins (2015)

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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.

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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: Umbrella Corp Utah

Most of the people you have met so far dress up as super heroes to CAUSEplay.  This weeks Heroes Behind the Masks is just a little bit different! This group uses costumes from the Resident Evil video games and movies! If you like zombies the way I do than you know these movies!  This group shows us that even the bad guys have a little heart.  One of my favorite things about this group is their support of National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.  I hope you like getting to know this unique group a little bit more!  And remember, there are many cosplay options to CAUSEplay and this group helps proves it!  –Mala
 photo FB_IMG_1428139797086_zps2r16l76r.jpgName: Umbrella Corp Utah

Interviewee: Steve Strank

Location(s): Ogden, Utah

When was the group started? And by who?:
The group has been around roughly a year and a half. The original group was rounded up as a security detail for Strankenstein’s Zombie Prom for Juvenile Diabetes. I wanted all my security people dressed as a Zombie response team. Once we were all together it was discussed that we kind of resembled the Umbrella Corporation. After that we knew we had to continue the awesomeness!

If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create Umbrella Corp Utah or CAUSEplay in general?
Me and my wife Trish have always had a passion for putting on charity events. Although we tend to do it in very abnormal ways like Zombie events. This just seemed like another fun way to do that.

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 have a 501(c)3, we work closely with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and one of our board members is on the board with the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial. A large portion of our group are law enforcement officers, so this charity means a lot to us.
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How can someone join Umbrella Corp Utah?
Info for joining our group can be found at www.utahumbrella.org we do have strict code of conduct rules.

If someone is in another state how can they find their local chapter of Umbrella Corp? There are many many groups around the world. We all post on the Facebook page Umbrella corporation worldwide.

What type of costumes do you accept?
Our group has 3 basic characters. Scientists (lab attire), Agents (black tactical look) and Soldiers (black SWAT look)
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Do you have a costume approval  process, if so what is it?
When potential applicats put a costume together they must submit a photo for our board members to vote on.

What do you look for in a costume?
When looking at a costume it must blend well with the rest of the group. Nothing too flashy or things that stand out. No skull masks or anything that shows expression.

Can I  join as a zombie?!
While we’re not currently recruiting zombies, if people want to be our “on call Zombie” for events, we do occasionally need Zombies for video/photo shoots and occasional events.

Do you often appear at local Zombie walks?
We appear at almost every Utah Zombie walks/events.

 photo FB_IMG_1428139893711_zpsjszeomxo.jpgDo you have people willing to help with the costume making process or  a resource guide to help with the process?
Having so many law enforcement officers and avid airsoft players, we have no shortage of places to recommend for you to get your gear.

How many people are currently in your group or chapter?
Roughly 35. Some are on reserve status do to being deployed or police Academy etc.

Leadership structure: We have a president, vice president, board of directors, and support staff.   And then we have 4 squads, each having a squad leader.

How is the leadership determined?
We started off with a core group placed in positions. When someone leaves the group for any reason, we vote a new person into that position
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What have you done for charities?
We have done escort duty for a make a wish child around comic con, we did the ever popular ice bucket challenge as a group. We raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, we’ve helped with the toys for tots charity, we’ve done so many various ones I can’t remember them all.

Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
We usually attend whatever events we can. We don’t always fit into the themes however. (people prefer superheroes!)

How did you build you “clientele”?
We strive to be dependable, helpful, and courteous. We want people to know that just because we play bad guys, we’re always there to be helpful. We have started to gain a reputation for it which I am proud of.

Do you have particular organization or cause you work with regularity?
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

How much money has the Umbrella Corp Utah raised for the organizations it works with? Particularly at FanX 2015 for the National Law  Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. What is the highest amount you  have raised other than this event? I think our total at FanX was around $1200 which set our record for an event.

What is the most amazing thing Umbrella Corp Utah has accomplished so far?
I think showing that bad guys also have a good side 🙂 people see big scary looking guys armored up with big guns, escorting a small fragile child on an adventure. And then seeing us all break down in tears at the end of it all.
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Where do you see Umbrella Corp Utah going in the future?
That’s a fantastic question. We’re currently deciding if we want to put a limit on members or not. We’re constantly trying to make things cooler for our booth. We want people to stop by and be blown away. In the umbrella corporation group community there’s always a competition on which group can pull off the coolest photos, booths, videos. So we’re always trying to get the upper hand.

Do you use any fun terminology specifically used by Umbrella Corp Utah?
We have a running joke about jackalopes.

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay  group or getting into CAUSEplay?
Start a group! At first it’s intimidating, but so worth it!
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What future events do you have?
We’re currently trying to plan out our comic con booth.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UmbrellaCorpUtah

Website: www.utahumbrella.org

Email: umbrellacorput@gmail.com

Here is more information on Steve, the creator of this great group!

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
A mix of seeing people response to our group, and also seeing our group come together as a family.

What was your first CAUSEplay event? 
When we started Strankenstein’s Zombie Prom many years ago. Back then I dressed as a Zombie.

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying?
I play the heavy machine gunner. I tote around the hand held minigun.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment:
Escorting the make a wish child around comic con on his Dr. Who adventure.

Who inspires you?
The local cosplayers that continue to do their thing with gaining an ego. The ones who don’t need to be in the spotlight but do it just because they love it. The ones who stay up late trying to get that last piece of their costume just perfect. And the ones who always offer a helping hand and advice. There are a few local Jedi that will always have my support! You guys know who you are.

Tell us something random about yourself: There are only two phobias I have. Glitter (this is a well known fact) and Sharks!

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star wars!

Marvel or DC: Marvel! (they can do no wrong!)

Favorite Comic Series: The Walking dead

Favorite Comic Character: hhhmmm…. That’s tough. Always liked batman.

Favorite Book: American Sniper

Favorite Video Game: Battlefield 4

Favorite Convention: Comic Con

Hero Behind the Mask: Shaun O.

This week’s feature is about an amazing guy that I have the privilege to know! He is kind and giving! Plus I have seen him in action interacting with children. He is more than happy to get to their level to talk and take a picture. Not only does he use his costumes for charity but he has donated items that were raffled of to raise money at Salt Lake City Fan X 2014 for the MDA! Their is way more to say about his personal life and the example he has been but that is for him to share, not me. Thank you for being a shinning example in and out of costume. – Mala

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Name: Shaun O.

Location: Seattle-ish, WA

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
I think the “CAUSEplaying” just happened. Prior to building my first costume, I met someone who shared a video called “Heart of an Empire” and told me to watch it before committing to the group. The video focused on the charity aspect of the 501st and the children which it impacted. That video pretty much set the standard and purpose who the costuming world I was about to enter.

In fact I actually befriended one of the main people in that movie this past year and hoping to meet him sometime this year.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
Funny you should ask that. It is twofold. I like meeting new people, in fact I would have never meet half the people I talk to, had it not been for costuming. The major reason however, is that I want to bring a smile to a child or a child at heart. Being able to bring a little happiness in a world that isn’t so much, is what makes it worth it to me.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
My first event was a birthday party for a 6yr old girl with brain cancer. The event was a pretty large community event in Florida and the first time I would be wearing armor in public. I was pretty lost and had no clue what I was supposed to do. Shortly after that event I was on my way to Seattle to start my new job.

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why?
Meh…that’s a tough one. I like my Commander Wolffe a lot and I get into character when I am in costume, which really gets people going, especially with the Kiwi accent. However, I think I would have to go with Spidey on this one. My comic version of Spider-man seems to always be a hit, who doesn’t like your friendly neighborhood web slinger?

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Most memorable CAUSEplay moment:Though I have had many memorable moments the one that always sticks out to me is during an event for foster children which come together (as they have been adopted) and have a picnic and field day. That day I met a girl name Kayden, which seemed to not know who I was in costume, which kind of puzzled me, it wasn’t until one of her sisters came up to me and whispered that, Kayden, was blind and unable to see who I was. That day I had to walk away for a little and take back what I had heard and experienced. It just broke my heart that this sweet little girl had already been through so much in her life and didn’t seem to have one complaint. I ended up spending the rest of the day playing with the other children but Kayden took a liking to me and ended up coming back, wanting to spend some time, and even having lunch with her and her family.

What is your favorite cause to support?
Anything that is community based, especially for kids. I have been pretty active, as of late, with Make-A-Wish.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
This one is easy, I’ve actually had to get dressed in a Porta-Potty, it was pretty tight in there and the fact that it smelt like flowers was amazing…

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Who inspires you?
Walt Disney is someone that I have a lot of respect for. It always amazes me that he grew up from humble beginnings, had a lot of setbacks and failures along the way, but stuck with his dream. Every time I walk into Disney World it amazes me that this guy had all this in his head at one time and was determined to make it work. He had a vision; he saw something where others saw nothing. That helps me realize that dreams really can come true, as corny as that sounds.

My dad is also someone else on a more personal scale which has done similar things, coming from a very poor family and making something for himself, with a lot resistance and yet persevering. Growing up my dad could fix just about anything and in that I knew that nothing was beyond my grasp, just needed to work hard and in some cases people have the right people to help along the way. If I don’t know how to do something, I usually find someone who does and soak it in…another tool in the tool belt.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: 1) Do it because you want to 2) It’s a hobby 3) Have fun and learn as much as you can 4) It can be a very expensive hobby, so try to not go and follow every fandom. You will be poor.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
I have no idea. It always seems very last minute.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
Costumer, seems like there is just a lot of hype with the word “cosplayer” these days…sadly I actually use “cosplay” for my fan page name.

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What was your first costume/cosplay?
My first was a Clone trooper from the Clone Wars, the animated series. I really liked the concept and idea that Clone troopers were breed for combat and also wanted to have a character that I could relate to, which happened to be Commander Wolffe.

My love for Clones started when watching Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Yoda’s “Begun the Clone Wars, has” and seeing an army of Clone troopers marching. I thought having armor like that would be cool. While I was deployed in Iraq I brought The Clone Wars to watch and feel in love with the characters, their struggles, who they began to take on personalities, and become their own. Once I got back Stateside, I found out that you could actually build animated armor kits, and so it began…Kamino.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I currently work as an engineer for one of the largest commercial airplane manufacturers in the world; That’s what pays the bills.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
Well…that’s been on my mind for some years now…I joke around that I’d be happy selling coconuts on the beach somewhere…though the engineer in me says that isn’t gonna pan out. I’m hoping the space program picks up, that was what I went to school for and hoped to eventually build the next Space Station or help work on a Lunar Base. I need something where I can work with my hands…an Imangineer at Disney was always a cool job I’d like to have.

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Tell us something random about yourself: I listen to Taylor Swift when I workout…sometimes.

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars…I will refer to quotes from Fan Boys if we continue this question.

Marvel or DC: Tough one…probably gonna go with DC on this one because it seems like Marvel is all over the place and messing up a lot of characters lately.

Favorite Comic Series: A no brainer that I read Amazing Spiderman but I have also really gotten into the new Harley Quinn series ( I like Harley).

Favorite Comic Character: Peter Parker…he’s probably your most complex character you’ll meet. Depending on the series you get different looks and stories, however, but I go for the lost of his Uncle Ben and losing his first love, Gwen Stacey, and how that happens to both drive him to be bigger than himself and also cripple him at times emotionally.

Favorite Book: Depends on what mood Im in. The Hobbit was always a good read. I started reading the Republic Commando series and really like those books. Last leadership/management book I read was Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and that was a good read, as well. The last one that sticks out that I read was Fearless which talks and follows the life of Adam Brown (a Navy SEAL) and his struggles in life: personal, through BUDs, and Deployments.

Favorite Video Game: Any of the Grand Theft Autos. I just like stealing cars, running red lights, being chased by the police, and picking up…friends.

Favorite Convention: I have just recently started going to conventions. I actually started when I moved to Seattle. However, my favorite Con so far was Celebration 6. I was able to meet up with a ton of friends I had personally met and people I met online. It was fun just hanging out, costuming in groups, and the random adventures at night. Good times were had.

Affiliations (clubs or groups): 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, 501st Clone Trooper Detachment, and the North West Mutant Academy.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/That-Guy-Cosplay/160248877502575

Other forms of social media: I really don’t like social media

Hero Behind the Mask: Knightmage

I have followed Knightmage for sometime now and I am always blown a way by his skill level as a costumer, his attitude, his compassion, and his level of giving!  I will forever be amazed at how quickly he can produce some complicated costumes!  If you haven’t seen his Predator yet check out his Facebook page (one costume that is not shown in any pictures here)!  You won’t be disappointed!  There is so much that can be said about this man but I feel his own words do more justice for his character than I could even attempt!   –Mala

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Name: Michael “Knightmage” Wilson

Location: Youngstown, Ohio

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
It started in 2011 when I decided that I wanted to make my Halloween costume. I went with John Stewart Green Lantern. After Halloween a friend asked me if I could participate in a local Relay For Life event. The theme was “America” so I thought, ok, I’ll make Captain America. After that I started attending birthday parties as Spiderman and soon after I made my Batman costume. That’s when I really started getting more involved with charity events. As time went on and the popularity of my cosplaying grew I started thinking that I could use this as an avenue to help a lot of people and organizations. Once I started getting invited to conventions and people would ask if I sold prints of my cosplays, again I thought this would be a great chance. So I came up with the idea to give my prints and autographs out for free. All I ask is a donation of any amount to my charity of choice. Every convention I attend I do a different charity. I try to stay local to where the convention is. I’ve since started to add a “Props Raffle for Charity”. Everything I do involving cosplaying where I’m handed money, whether it be a con appearance, birthday party, selling of prints and props, it all goes to charity. That’s my way of giving back for all the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given through cosplaying.

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What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
A few things. Again, it’s really my way of giving back. Once cosplaying went from a hobby to a passion I really wanted to strive to be an idea. I didn’t just want to create something, wear it then be done. I wanted it to mean something. I wanted to do more and hopefully inspire others with it. There’s so many different layers of cosplaying to me now and there’s so many more yet undiscovered. Showing how you can turn a hobby/passion you love into a charitable act of love is just one layer. But it’s a huge layer for me and it continues to drive me to keep doing more. When I started cosplaying I never expected it to go in this direction. Now two years later I’m getting The Presidential Volunteer’s Service Award and paying off layaways as an anime character. It’s just crazy how life happens and the twists and turns it gives you.

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What was your first CAUSEplay event?
It was a Relay For Life. I made Captain America specifically for that event. I had an absolute blast and it was well received.

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why?
I’ve tested out only a hand full of different costumes at events but Batman is probably my favorite. All kids and even adults love Batman. The reception I get from it is something really special.

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Most memorable CAUSEplay moment:
Wow. There’s been so many. I think maybe the “Lighting the Bat Signal for Jayden” event. This was a local event for a young four-year old boy named Jayden. He has a rare disease known as MSD Leukemia. At the time he was only given months to live. He’s a huge Batman fan so the idea was to make an event so big that it would catch the attention of Christian Bale in hopes that he would come and meet the young man. Well as time drew closer the idea was thought to have a bunch of superheroes there as well. This is when I decided to make my Batman. I would be Batman for the event. A very small organization at the time from Cleveland “Superheroes to kids in Ohio” got involved and one of the members had just purchased a Batman suit. So the reigns of doing that honor was handed to him. I decided to wear my Green Lantern outfit. When the day came, with only weeks of planning, us heroes (around 12) had a police escort to the local stadium with over 10 thousand people waiting. It was unbelievable. Then comes little Jayden. We all greeted him. He over joyed. As it got dark Jayden lit the Bat signal in the sky. Literally a fully working large spotlight Bat signal. A very kind gentleman who owned one brought his from Cleveland and played the role of Alfred. With the signal in the sky and music playing through the stadium speakers, Batman rolls in with his Batmobile. I don’t remember the type of car but it was donated for use from a dealership. The car was a black sleek sports car and was worth around $500,000. Batman took Jayden for a quick ride and returned to the stadium where we all took photos and chatted. The outpouring of support shown from the community was just incredible. I think that will forever be my favorite moment. The story gets better as Christian Bale did indeed get word and flew Jayden and his family out to Los Angeles to spend the weekend with him. Also Jayden is still with us and is on the road to recovery.

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What is your favorite cause to support?
I have a lot but one charity I will always support and is my go to is the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They do so much and to be able to help give someone their last wish, that’s just the ultimate gift to give.

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The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
So far I haven’t had to do anything really crazy but I’m sure after this interview post that’ll change.

Who inspires you?
I find inspiration from everywhere and everybody. Sounds cliché but it’s absolutely true. There are so many people, especially in the cosplay community who inspires me. I feed off of positive energy. If it’s around then that’s what inspires me.

Advice for CAUSEplaying: So many things to say here. First off you need to be confident in yourself, be true to the character and mindful of your audience.. 90% of charity cosplaying involves working with kids. If you’re Superman then you need to be the portrayal of Superman. I don’t mean looking like you just came out of a comic book. I mean your personality. You want that kid to believe that you are Superman regardless of what you personally look like because all that kid will see is that “S” on your chest. Getting into charity work can be difficult but don’t get discouraged. Create a resume/bio of yourself to give organizations. Get a background check done of yourself too. They need to know that they can trust you and you want to be able to show that they can. Anytime money is involved, especially if you’re raising it, then you need to keep all receipts. Start small. You probably won’t be able to just contact a Children’s Hospital and start visits. You need to build a rapport with your community first. I always say that Relay for Life’s are great for that. They’re everywhere and there’s so many connections in the community that you can make. I can go on and on but I’m always available to help and give some tips and guidance.

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What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
Well, since I raise money at every convention I guest at I have a bunch of those coming up. Many I can’t say yet because they haven’t announced me. And of course there’s always a charity event in need of a super hero somewhere. I post my schedule as it comes regularly on my social media pages.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
It honestly doesn’t matter to me. Neither are derogatory terms and both generally means the same.

What was your first costume/cosplay?
John Stewart Green Lantern. Made that for Halloween in 2011.

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What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
I am a Deputy Sheriff. I’ve been in law enforcement for 15 years. People are always shocked to learn that.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I’ve always been fascinated with fight choreography and stunts so I would have to say a professional stuntman. I’ve went to stunt school and have done extra work and stunt work for a few Hollywood movies but I’ve never pursued it as a career.

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Tell us something random about yourself: I am deathly afraid of spiders!

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars! C’mon, The Force is where it’s at!

Marvel or DC: That’s tough. Character wise I love DC but when it comes to building a story I love Marvel. So overall I think Marvel has the edge with me.

Favorite Comic Series: Batman. The one character who is always a constant to me is Batman.

Favorite Comic Character: Spawn. Such an incredible story and look. Plus he’s incredibly fun to cosplay.

Favorite Book: I’m not religious but The Bible.

Favorite Video Game: Oregon Trail! No, seriously, probably the Call of Duty series. It’s so much fun. So many hours and days wasted just doing some killin.

Favorite Convention: C2E2. I have so much fun at this convention every year. I’ve met so many awesome friends there. So many amazing cosplays also. It’s a great show with a mix of pop culture and comics. It’s just awesome all around. A very close second is Dragon Con. That con is just crazy nuts but in a good party way.

Affiliations (clubs or groups): Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, The Heroes Alliance Ohio, Together Brothers Productions, Shot in the Dark Comics, and the East Coast Avengers.

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/Knightmage1

Twitter: @Knightmage

Instagram: Knightmage1

Heroes Behind the Masks: Portland Superheroes Coalition

I believe that the world needs more Muppets and this weeks feature has them! Major KUDOS to anyone who adds these amazing characters to the world. BTW I saw them at a distance at Emerald City Comic Con 2014 and they are amazing! If I wasn’t on the escalator going the opposite way I would  have grabbed a picture of them! Okay, enough fan girling!  Though I have never personally meet this amazing group, several friends of mine have nothing but amazing things to say about the participants and creator of the Portland Superheroes Coalition. The do a little bit of everything and have a high level of professionalism.  Maybe one day I can join them and the awesome that they do!  A girl can wish right!  –Mala

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Group Name: Portland Superheroes Coalition

Location(s):  Greater Portland, Salem and Eugene areas.

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Mission Statement: Helping others through fundraisers and community events.

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When was the group started?
The group was initially created by myself and another cosplayer July 2012 after the Batman movie theater shooting, but then sat dormant until January 2013. In Jan 2013 was Wizard World Portland, and so much fun was had meeting other cosplayers that things were ramped into full gear and our first event was in April of 2013 for a college graduation.

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What inspired the creation of Portland Superheroes Coalition or CAUSEplay in general?  
I was always that kid that made things and took apart toys and who loved Halloween. Over the years Halloween became a favorite holiday and I started making more and more elaborate costumes, and eventually wanted to do more with my costumes than just Halloween; and wanted an outlet with a positive aspect. Basically all parts fell into place that way, and other people were recruited and invited.

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Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? 
We are not 501c3, just a group of volunteers who all want to do good things in the community and make people happy. We have no bank accounts or money to spend on huge things such as filling for 501c3, and personal monies we do have is used to either buy hospital toys or for group purchases like business  cards to give out when people ask of us. We are fortunate to have Sponsors who contact us and ask what we need, and who provide us with extra money and toys for our special visits. We all work on the honor system basically.

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How can someone join Portland Superheroes Coalition?
People who have top-notch non mass-produced outfits can send us an email with a few photos of their character, where they will be voted on by the most active members of the group. There are a few rules listed on our website people must follow too, such as being 18+ years old and expectations of keeping up to date on group outings.

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Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
We have only 1 chapter but will travel and have Heroes from Seattle down to Eugene. www.facebook.com/PortlandSuperheroesCoalition

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What type of costumes do you accept?  Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it?  What do you look for in a costume?
Currently we are pushing for more superheroes and superhero-type characters than pop-culture. We do have a selection of video game, Muppets, Star Wars and a few other genres in order to appeal to wider audiences though. Needs can always change due to group activities and what is asked of us when invited to an event.  High quality top-notch family-friendly suits only as mass-produced and store-bought are not allowed. We try to raise the bar a step higher than regular cosplay in both class and interaction to give a unique experience while in the public.

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Do you accept crossplay costumes?  Gender bent costumes?   Customized characters?
We do have crossplay and welcome it if it’s done very well. The expectations from dressing at a Con versus going into the public for events are totally different, as the public is far more picky and less forgiving if a character isn’t as accurate as possible. Also if a character doesn’t meet the public’s expectations, it will cause a distraction and reduce the illusion we are going for. We do not accept custom made-up characters for the same reason as they can be a distraction due to people asking too many questions.

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Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
Yes, and we love it! Between the almost 50 Current Members we have a great knowledge base and abilities on everything from sewing to fiberglassing.

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How many people are currently in your group?
As of today Jan 5th, 48.

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How is the leadership determined?
I am the founder and one who handles all emails, Facebook and events. When a person submits a Hero for consideration, a non-typical event has been asked of us, or just something slightly unusual is happening, we have a private forum where all Current Members are addressed and a Core Group of the most active Heroes to get ideas and suggestions from. Very few things are done without asking another person something, as I believe a group should have group input.

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What have you done for charities (types of events)?
We attend fundraisers and charity events, community festivals, school functions and assemblies, walk in parades, help with canned food drives, spend the day at children’s museums, greet at movie premieres, attend games with many local sports teams, setup photo booths for donations, and visit children’s hospitals.

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Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
We never make our own events, we only go somewhere after invited.

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How did you build you “clientele”?
Just from word of mouth, or from giving out cards while attending an event.

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Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Make A Wish Oregon are 2 that we are very proud to support. We have worked with many others and have had very awesome experiences. We attended an event at Christmas time for the Oregon Air National Guard and they are very excited for future fun.

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What is the most amazing thing Portland Superheroes Coalition has accomplished so far?
Helping current and past Doernbecher patients and Make A Wish kids hits us pretty hard and makes everything all worth it. Just making people happy is a main goal and we are accomplishing that at every event by giving people a few minutes to meet a childhood Hero, especially adults who will “let their guard down” to be a kid again.

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Where do you see Portland Superheroes Coalitiongoing in the future?
No way to tell. It’s all done with volunteers and you never know who is coming or going, so you just plan for the moment basically.

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Do you use any fun terminology specifically for Portland Superheroes Coalition?
No.

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Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
It can be exhausting but totally worth it. Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen.

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If people want to donate toys, or money to help with toys, how can they do this?
It’s best for them to message before donating to work things out.

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What future events do you have?
We go to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital every 3 months. Events with the Portland Winterhawks and Portland Trail Blazers are also set, and an event for a large group of foster children.

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Facebook: www.facebook.com/PortlandSuperheroesCoalition

Twitter: www.twitter.com/supers_pdx

Email: portlandsuperheroes@yahoo.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/PortlandSuperheroes

Instagram: www.instagram.com/pdx_supers

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Let me know how you are getting involved! I want to hear your stories!! And adventures!! Or tell me about a CAUSEplayer or a group you think are making a difference! Email AdventuresWithMala@gmail.com with your stories!

Hero Behind the Mask: FirewingCreations

HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!!!  I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday season!

For the first blog of 2015 I want to introduce you to FirewingCreations.  This lady is a sweet heart!  I had the please of meeting her at several conventions this year.  At Rose City Comic Con we had fun at a photo shoot and made a fun video!  Its never a dull moment around FirewingCreations! People from Comic Book Character for Causes and the Northwest Mutant Academy can confirm this.  She is a wealth of costume knowledge and shares her skills as a panelist at cons in the Seattle area. I hope you enjoy the interview with her as much as I enjoyed putting this together.  I am looking forward to seeing her at cons and charity events in the future!   –Mala

Name: FirewingCreations

Location: Everett, WA

What got you into CAUSEplaying?
At my second ever convention I happened to see a large group of cosplayers collecting money in a rather unassuming bucket to be donated to Children’s Hospital. One of the members handed me a card with contact info and I joined what would more officially become Comic Book Characters for Causes. I remember thinking that it was a really nice idea to take something that was just a personal hobby and turn it also into an opportunity to help people in real life. Why just dress as a superhero when you have the ability to make an impact in someone’s life at the same time.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying?
I continue with CausePlay because I know it makes an impact. It is very encouraging to hear the positive feedback from many of the adult volunteers and coordinators that are involved with events. Of course, I often get a lot of good interactions from kids when they are around at events, but often kids can be kind of shy around new people; so many times I’ve had adults follow up after and tell me how the kids kept talking about our participation and inquire if we will be back again.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
My first event was at a local toy store called Bobakhan Toys and Collectables. They hosted a Marvel vs. DC day where they were raising funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. I wish I could recall the wish they were fundraising for, but I know they had a really good turnout.

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Bobakhan Marvel vs. DC Fanshots

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why?
Currently, Batgirl is my favorite to wear CausePlaying. Batgirl is my most recognizable character costume, it’s quite comfortable (though I’m still looking to make the cowl better), and has a utility belt and cape. I would say character recognition is fairly important in costume choice for charity events, I think it’s often easier for the public to identify who you are and then what you’re doing if they can place your character.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment:  This past summer at a foster family picnic, there were two young girls that apparently picked me as their buddy from our small group of superheroes and princesses. They kept coming back to talk to me and hug me and one even insisted on giving me some candy she had won at one of the games they had there. They were the sweetest.

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July 26, 2014 Foster Family Picnic

What is your favorite cause to support?
I like supporting causes for children in need. Camp Goodtimes (http://www.thegoodtimesproject.org/) is a great group that provides a summer camp for children affected by cancer. They recently lost their funding by the American Cancer Society and so can really use the publicity and donations. I also have enjoyed supporting Hand in Hand (http://www.handinhandkids.org/) a group that supports foster kids by providing safe and comfortable transitional housing when they are removed from their homes and are waiting for their new families.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
This last summer I had the opportunity to visit Camp Goodtimes West with some other members of the group Comic Book Characters for Causes. We split up and participated with the kids at some of their recreational choices. The activity I joined was a flash mob, dancing as Batgirl to the song “Classic.” It was really fun, and there is video proof.  Which can be found here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzkWwzAyWiY

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by all the people that daily work in jobs dedicated to directly helping others and providing for their needs, particularly when it’s usually a thankless job. I couldn’t adequately list every job position that does this, but some that I’ve personally encountered or worked with the last few years include: veterinary staff (who try their best to take care of the animals they see, even if their owners don’t understand why Fluffy shouldn’t be eating fast food every day…), medical staff (who really wants to clean up and tend to the things that they do daily?), special ed staff (there are some really awesome kids that can be trying at times). Most of these jobs aren’t really high-paying or glamorous and they certainly aren’t easy, but these people do what needs to be done. It’s amazing really.

Advice for CAUSEplaying:
Don’t be afraid to talk and connect with people, that’s how you will find a good group to join for CausePlay. Once you connect, be reliable and professional. Do what you say you’re going to do. Last, but not least, leave your drama at home when you attend an event. I think it’s important to remember that we who CausePlay come together to promote a cause that’s bigger than our ourselves and more can be accomplished if you’re able to work together smoothly with your peers.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up?
The next big event for Comic Book Characters for Causes is Emerald City Comicon in Seattle at the end of March. We’ll have a photobooth as usual and will be raising funds for local children’s charities.

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2014 ECCC

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
I tend to use the term costumer because my personal focus is more on the crafting of an outfit instead of becoming a character. However, I’m not the type of person to quibble over vocabulary.

What was your first costume/cosplay?
Well, I’ve had Halloween costumes over the years of course but my first costume at my first convention was Kaylee from Firefly. That basically only involved removing sleeves from a flight suit and sewing on patches. The next year I decided I could figure out how to sew gloves and boot covers and dressed in spandex as Dark Phoenix.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
Trophy wife. Ha! No, its kind of true. Previously I’ve worked in a veterinary clinic as a receptionist and lab assistant and also in the local school system as a substitute paraeducator. My husband works and supports my role as a home maker so I can take care of our household and also help my parents who have had some health issues recently.

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
I love being a home maker, that is my dream job. If I wanted to do something where I actually get paid though, I think it would be fun to be a lab assistant and do nerdy and scientific things like running bloodwork, looking under microscopes and most importantly not doing retail or customer service. I’m pretty introverted and I love science.

Tell us something random about yourself: I have a bachelor’s degree in business and I’m very good at jigsaw puzzles.

Star Wars or Star Trek: I grew up with both. My dad was really into Trek, but I guess I like the overall aesthetic of Star Wars a little better. As I watch some more Trek…..

Marvel or DC: DC. I started reading American comics because I thought, justifiably, that Batman was just the coolest. I’ve stayed with DC because of the strong females like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Black Canary… etc.

Favorite Comic Series: Fables. Birds of Prey. But really, if we go international… Sailor Moon.

Favorite Comic Character: After much mental deliberation: Storm from X-Men.

Favorite Book: *sigh* Ella Enchanted. But I love so many others too…

Favorite Video Game: I love me some Pokemon. I still remember saving up my own money to buy myself a Gameboy Color and Pokemon Red game package back in the day. And yes I still play.

Favorite Convention: Sakura Con in Seattle. 2014 was my first time attending and it was super fun. This may be in part because I got to join a Sailor Moon group and costume as a Sailor scout, something I’d wanted to be since about 1st grade.

Affiliations (clubs or groups): Comic Book Characters for Causes (cbc4c.org) and Northwest Mutant Academy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FirewingCreations

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Let me know how you are getting involved! I want to hear your stories!! And adventures!! 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.