While at the Long Island Toy Show, I was fortunate enough to meet Chres Feehan who told me about the 501st Legion and what they did. Oh, did I happen to mention that he was in full stormtrooper gear and looked like he just leaped off the screen and slapped you in the face with a whole bunch of awesome? No? Oh well that's kind of important. First let me introduce you to the 501st Legion.
The 501st was formed in 1997 and spreads the magic of Star Wars worldwide. With the use of authentic looking costumes, the legion's volunteers donate their time to fun based charity events. They are a band of bad guys that are doing the world some good. This is an international organization and has more than 3,300 volunteers in 35 countries, 50 states and Puerto Rico. Although they are recognized by Lucas Media, they do not sponsor, pay or procure costumes for the legion, this is 100 percent volunteer and 100 percent awesome.
Now let's get back to Mr. Feehan and his local chapter of the 501st Legion.
MG: Thank You for taking the time to tell The Mommy's Guide about what it is you do. Let me just say that we think what you and your fellow members do is an amazing gift. How long have you been participating in the 501st Legion?
CF: I first started around five years ago, I constructed my stormtrooper costume and got it approved. I had seen 501st Legion members at conventions for years before that and wanted to join, but I have twin girls and never had time to construct a costume and join. Once they were around 6 years old, I managed to find some time and get involved with the group. Since then I have attended over 100 events in costume and my family has been very supportive.
MG: When did you start your own chapter?
CF: The international group the 501st Legion was started 15 years ago by a man named Albin Johnson. Individual Garrisons started popping up all around the world soon after and the New York chapter, The Empire City Garrison, was one of the first. The 501st Legion now has over 5,000 members worldwide and we have over 50 members in the New York Garrison. After I joined, I got very involved helping spread the word about what we do on Long Island, and I now act as the charity representative for New York and the event coordinator for Long Island. Below is a brief description of the organization ...
The 501st Legion is an all-volunteer worldwide organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work. We are known for representing bad guy characters like stormtroopers, Clone Troopers, Bounty Hunters and Sith Lords, in the most accurate way possible. We are officially recognized by Lucas Film as their preferred costuming group. The Empire City Garrison is the local New York chapter of the 501st Legion.
MG: What is your favorite Star Wars Movie or scene?
CF: The first movie, "A New Hope", always holds a special place in my heart. I saw it when I was 7 years old and as you can imagine it left a real impression on me. But my favorite Star Wars movie is "Empire Strikes Back." It was the most emotional and had some of the best scenes, including the showdown between Vader and Luke. Part of the attraction of the 501st Legion, is getting to dress up in a movie accurate costume from the film, and actually having a good reason to do so.
MG: Favorite Character?
CF; I would have to say Luke. He is the hero of the story and the one you root for throughout the movie. My stormtrooper costume is actually a specific stormtrooper known as TK-421. He was the one Luke clobbered in "A New Hope" and stole his armor. He was the only stormtrooper who conveniently had a commlink and grappling hook on his belt, both of which Luke needed later on in the film.
MG: The 501 Legion must take up a lot of your free time, what other than wearing an awesome costume, makes you volunteer so much of yourself to the 501st Legion?
CF: The 501st Legion does some great work with various charities around the world. I just love the idea that so many individuals can come together and enjoy their passion for building and wearing movie accurate costumes, and use that to help the community. Doing hospital visits and charity events are always incredibly rewarding and those are the ones I enjoy the most. Words cannot express the joy you feel when you bring a smile to the face of a child going through a rough time. We try to do hospital visits three to four times a year and every time we do, I am incredibly thankful to have two healthy girls at home. I am just glad that we are given the opportunity to give these kids some attention. They make all the time and money we spend on our costumes worth it.
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