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May the force make your wish

The 501 Garrison is using the dark side of the force to help Calgary Expo fans raise money for the Make-A-Wish foundation.

“The people who attend the Calgary Expo are some of the most generous and genuine people,” says April Cote the fearless leader of Make-A-Wish foundation at the Calgary Expo. Cote is the manager of events and volunteers.

The Southern Alberta Chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation has partnered with the 501 Garrison, a group of Star Wars cosplayers, to create a photo booth for the charity.

Last year the Calgary Expo was able to help the organizations raise enough money to grant a wish for a child in need.

“It’s a great time to just pretend and be who you want to be,” says Cote.

“They’re all kids at heart.”

The 501 Garrison has created an elaborate set designed to draw fans to the dark side with Star Wars fan photos.

Calgary Expo has been instrumental in creating a space to talk about Make-A-Wish Foundation. Last year the booth was able to raise over $10,000 for the charity organization in just one weekend.

The 501 Garrison does not designate a single wish to benefit from the money raised during Calgary Expo, instead they work in the shadows to help Make-A-Wish succeed.

“[The Garrison] does it out of the goodness of the heart,” says Cote.

“[The best part] is seeing how much happiness and joy it brings people.”

The relationship between Make-A-Wish and Star Wars began a long time ago in the United States.

A child had a simple wish for a pink R2-D2 droid unit. Lucasfilm and Disney worked together to make that dream come true.

Since the creation of the pink R2-D2 the force has been strong between the studios and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The charity became a charity of choice for the studios.

at the BMO Centre in Calgary on Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Photo by Chelsea Kemp/SAIT)

Make-A-Wish volunteers, left to right, Tyler Instom, Carla Correr, April Cote and Jeremy Cote pose for a picture at the BMO Centre in Calgary on Saturday, April 29, 2017.  The Make-A-Wish Ffoundation and the 501 Garrison work to raise money for the charity during the Calgary Expo. (Photo by Chelsea Kemp/SAIT)

The Alberta chapter of the 501 Garrison contacted Make-A-Wish, and the charity joined the dark side at Calgary Expo.

The photos won’t cost Expo goers their hand; all pictures with the 501 Garrison are free.

All that is asked is that people donate what they can.

“We’ll get everything from kids bringing in their change, which is adorable and awesome, to having people drop in a $50 dollar bill,” says Cote.

One of the unique aspects of the photo booth is the popularity the villains have with Expo fans.

The 501 Garrison has become an imperial escort, in their official Star War uniforms, for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Members make the journey to celebrate events and wish announcements.

“These are the bad guys of Star Wars, so you would think some of the kids would be terrified, but they come and they hug Darth Vader.

They love these guys.”

The origin of the 501 Garrison, a worldwide organization with more than a 1000, lies with the dark side.

The Garrison is one of villainy, but over time the universe has expanded to include a little bit of everything. The exhibit now includes photos with Jedi, Doctor Who characters and Star Trek characters.

All costumes are up to the Star Wars code of authenticity, and the sets for Calgary Expo are all hand made.

“We love the 501 for doing this,” says Matt Chen a volunteer with Make-A-Wish. The volunteer is always impressed with cosplayer’s commitment to the charity and their fandom.

“Every year it is a bit bigger and a bit better. It’s pretty amazing.”

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