Friday, June 20, 2014

Operation: Evan's Experience

The Force is a mysterious thing. It's actions are sometimes hard to notice, sometimes hard to understand- but in my experience always deliberate and always very well timed.

I had been mulling over a concept I felt very strongly about that came to the surface back when the reality show "heroes of cosplay" began on the Sci-fi channel. I never saw the show because, well, the death star doesn't have cable, but I experienced the backlash it received through social media for purportedly portraying costumers or "Cosplayers" as vain, selfish drama queens. Many pointed to the efforts of various costuming groups with charitable inclinations such as the various super hero themed organizations and the 501st as 'the real heroes of cosplay', which put me in an awkward position- was I a cosplayer?

Cosplay means many things to many different people (for what the wikipedia gods have to say about it, click here). To me, probably like many others, it was something that people who were really into anime did. It was a dedication not only to extreme fandom but also for retro, period, and futuristic fashion. It was a role play thing, where you could be someone else for a while and play in a fantasy realm. And in retrospect, maybe a lot of those ideas could be related to what I do. I love Star Wars, I love putting on a show for the kids (of all ages) and playing the part. To me those are fun side affects.

So I got to thinking about what about the word "Cosplay" bothered me. The term is, obvioulsy, short for "costumed play". It didn't take long for me to realize that that insinuation greatly offended me. Now for a silly explanation for that sentiment, which might give you an entertaining insight into just how much i have lost my mind. It'll be fun, I promise.

What follows is simply my opinion, and does not necessarily represent the views of the 501st legion, it's members or affiliates.

I don't dress up like a Stormtrooper. I am a Stormtrooper. the beauty of a 501st costume is, simply. I am not pretending to be anyone. When I have my helmet on I am still Adam DeLancett, disgruntled retail manager and patron of all things weird. When I am at work in my camo shorts and metal t-shirt, I am still TK-66613 of the 501st Legion, Florida Garrison, Makaze Squad, First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment. The two things are one in the same. Yeah I am a fan of Star Wars, but moreso, I am a fan of Scott Loxley, the man who walked around the Australian continent in Sandtrooper Armor to raise $150,000 for a children's hospital. I am a fan of the doctors, nurses and volunteers at Nemour's Children's hospital who not only help cure sick kids but make sure it's fun while they do it. I am a fan of Mayor Clayton, the giant Rabbit at give kids the world village who welcomes make-a-wish families to their temporary homes. I am a fan of each an every member of our organization that takes the time to make a smile, who puts in extra money to make a donation, who takes the initiative to make a difference. Every once in a while a kid at an event will say something along the lines of "you're not a real Stormtrooper!", and I will look them straight in the face and say, "Kid, these people here are the real Stormtroopers. Those guys in the movies are just actors playing Stormtroopers. Here we are, doing something, completing missions and making a difference. This is as real as it gets".

I have since accepted that what I do, what WE do as a legion will often be relegated to the world of cosplay. And you know what? That's ok. Cosplay has elevated into a real art form, where extremely talented artists, mechanics, and costumers master their craft and constantly raise the bar of excellence- and magically, simultaneously a growing community that preaches, practices, and praises acceptance, appreciation, and kindness is blossoming. Yes, there are divas, and bullies, and hecklers- there is in every crowd, but it's hard not to notice how much more positive the environment has become, and I think I am justified in feeling that organizations like the 501st have helped steer it in that direction.

But I still trip over that word- "Cosplayer". Yeah, I've got a costume. But more importantly, I've got a cause. And what I do may be fun but it's also a lot of work, and it's a bit demeaning to refer to it as play. Some call it volunteerism. Some call it charity. But it my mind it has always been one thing.

It's a war.

When you are a football fan and your team loses, your friends make jokes.

When you are a fisherman and you lose, you still sat in a boat all day with your friends.

When you are a one of us and you lose, a kid's last wish never happens. A program that desperately needs funding doesn't get it. A child dies. It's a tough hobby. The payoffs are huge, the experience is life changing, and the losses are absolutely devastating. Some may shy away from the aspects of what we do that may get uncomfortable or upsetting, but most rise to face the ugliest, saddest tragedies again and again- not with a gun, but with a joke, a smile, a wave, and a hug.



All of the sentiments I have described above were the inspiration for the new Troop for the Cure t-shirt design I put together just last night. "I am not a cosplayer- I am a cause warrior". And the universe answered me, in the moment when I had pulled it all together, and presented me with a new mission.

The message, forwarded to me by a friend of Evan's Parents:



"My son Evan has Neurofibromatosis Type 1. It's a neurological disorder that causes tumors to grow in the body. He has several large plexiform neurofibroma (tumors) in his pelvic region that are considered life threatening.
Before, Doctors would tell us he would live until he was 18, now we don't know if we have a year left with him. Evan doesn't know how very sick he is and we will not tell him. He deserves to be happy with thoughts of the future and his hopes to become a Doctor.
His health is failing more quickly than we expected. Recently, he was admitted into Hospice in order to get his pain under control and is still under their supervision at home.
We want Evan to experience all the things he wants to do in his life. This page is an effort to raise the money needed to send Evan to Rome to see the Colosseum, see the Grand Canyon, witness the Aurora Borealis and maybe see one more Maroon 5 concert.
Because of Evan's illness, his father must stay home with him and we survive off my modest income. His father and I are both in school full time working hard to provide Evan and his brother with the life they deserve. Unfortunately, we won't have the time to do that for Evan.
We hope that you can help us give Evan the best year of his life. I want him to leave us having experienced all the things he wanted to do."

And the war goes on.

Join me in helping Evan's parents reach their goal. As always 100% of all proceeds go to benefit Evan's family in their most noble of pursuits- to give their child a full life.

In the war against suffering, we are the soldiers. The Weapon is Hope.
Never tell me the odds.
TK-66613



Order your "Cause Warrior" shirts here- http://www.freewebstore.org/Troop-For-The-Cure/22Cause_Warrior22_shirt_to_benefit_Evan/p1645292_12439132.aspx

Shirts are men's cut, 100% cotton and available sizes small to 3XL.
AT THIS TIME WE ARE TAKING PRE-ORDERS ONLY. Once enough orders have been placed we will go ahead with printing the run. Please be patient with us and feel free to pass our mission along, the lower production costs are and the more money we can donate to Evan's wish.

SHIPPING:
Standard shipping rate is for USA orders only.
Please do not select the "pickup" option unless you are in regular contact with TK-66613.
If you are interested in international shipping please contact me at , if you are part of an international 501st Garrison and would like to make a group order we may be able to offer a reduced shipping rate.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Operation: Show Support

For those who are new here, let me introduce myself- I am TK-66613 of the 501st Legion, Florida Garrison, Makaze Squad, First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment. I started this blog a little over a year ago when my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells, to document the mission I undertook upon his diagnosis to dedicate my life to the fight against cancer in all forms. In that year I have delved deep into the the 501st Legion, a worldwide Star Wars costuming group dedicated to charitable causes and good deeds. I have participated in many fundraisers, events, and good will missions including bi-monthly hospital visits and one-on-one Make A Wish events.

 

This year has started off as a busy one, in which I had the privileged of finally meeting my Little Warrior Ethan Paredes, a little boy who was diagnosed with Leukemia on his fifth birthday and who has been my internet pen pal for just about a year. Members of my squad and I organized a special meet and greet with Ethan and his family, and also sponsored a trip to Lego Land for them. I also had the pleasure of heading up a relay for life team called the Imperial Walkers, who raised just over $4.000 for the American Cancer Society.



But the war goes on- and my next mission is very demonstrative to the heartless nature of this terrible disease, an enemy who knows no limits and gives no quarter. Meet Olivia Valentin, a 6 month old girl who has been diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. The costs of her treatment have already surpassed $11,000 and with months of treatment left to go it can only get more expensive from here.



The purpose of Operation: Show Support is to lend a hand to Olivia's family in what will no doubt be one of the most difficult times of their life. In order to do just that I have organized a patch run to benefit Olivia's family and help out with medical costs and simple living costs. Please join me in supporting this beautiful little girl in the fight of her life.



The yellow ribbon represents childhood cancer. The patch shows a Sandtrooper being provided air support from three soaring TIE fighters. The aurebesh script in the upper right reads "Operation Show Support". At this time patches are pre-order only, and will be shipped once the run is complete. The image above is a mock up, and the final product may vary slightly. 100% of all proceeds go to Olivia and her family.

You can purchase these patches from my webstore here.

Thank you for reading and for helping me in this mission.

In the war on suffering, we are the soldiers. The weapon is hope.
Never tell me the odds.

-TK-66613

Monday, December 30, 2013

Operation: Force of Hope Part II

If you have been following the story so far, you know that back in August I began a crusade to save a young woman's life. Nadine Sfeir had been battling brain cancer and her could not afford the medical costs of her last resort, an experimental treatment only offered abroad and not covered by her health insurance. Nadine's battle ended on Thanksgiving this year. She passed at home in the arms of her family.

I knew when I took this mission on that it was a long shot. "Never tell me the odds" isn't just a cool thing Han Solo says- it's a promise I made that no matter how bleak things may look, or how impossible someones plight may seem, to support them, encourage them, and help them fight back. Everyone deserves a chance to fight, win or lose. Nadine needed our help, and we answered her call.

When Nadine died, it hurt. It hurt knowing I had failed. It hurt knowing that such a bright and promising person could be taken from us. But most of all, it hurt knowing that Nadine's family would spend this Christmas in mourning. Many times this holiday, my mind drifted from what I was doing to the thoughts of Nadine's family, and especially to her Fiance. I am engaged to be married this coming January, and the thought of losing my wife-to-be during the holidays was too horrible to imagine.

 I never met Nadine. All I know about her I learned through a few fundraising websites, her twitter account, and her obituary. I never heard her voice or saw her face, but there is one thing I have taken away from the words of her loved ones:

Nadine believed in helping people.



I saw it only fit to use the left over money from Nadine's fundraiser to help someone sharing her battle. That person was a little boy named Dom. Dom has spent the last 2 years of his life battling brain cancer, and has decided to take his experience and turn it around by helping other people in need and making other children's days brighter. Dom and his family organised a toy drive for the kids he meets at his monthly treatments and sponsored 14 families this past holiday with  gifts he collected. Dom is an amazing kid with a great family who understands something that I have always believed, that giving back is part of the healing process.

Many of my amazing friends and fellow members of the Makaze Squad put together a care package for Dom and his siblings, including toys, video games, and Subway gift cards (where Dom likes to eat after chemo). Along with this package Dom's family received a giant check from Darth Vader in the amount of $1,000 to help with Dom's treatment and projects. The members of the Black Ice Squad in the Wisconsin Garrison of the 501st made the day extra special by adding their own gifts and suiting up for a very special visit to Dom's family to deliver the package. I think these photos say it all. A huge thanks to all the troopers involved, especially Briana Petersen, and to Maci Lynn Bates who set me up with Dom through her amazing 'Little Warriors' program. It was a mad flurry of emails, shipping, and snowstorms, but in the end it turned out great.







In the end, I am still sad about losing Nadine's battle. I hope that in some way it may comfort her family to know that we fought for her, and that we paid tribute to her in a beautiful way.
 I will never forget her fight.
 But the war goes on.
 I may not win this war in my lifetime, but with kids like Dom are out there, I know someone will.

-TK-66613
"Never Tell Me the Odds"

Check out Dom's page:
https://www.facebook.com/PayingItForwardJediStyle

And Little Warriors:
https://www.facebook.com/littlewarriors.acs



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Operation: Force of Hope- Mission Complete

Four months ago I began a crusade to raise funds to help save a young woman's life.

On the evening of November 26th that mission ended, as Nadine Sfeir died in the embrace of her loved ones. She was home for the Holidays. My deepest condolences go out to her friends and family, for their great loss.



I didn't know, right away. I work in retail and the holidays are a busy time for me, and though some people close to me were aware of Nadine's passing it was kept from me, for fear that it would compromise my mental state on what was to be a twenty hour work day, and the busiest day of the year (Thanksgiving into black Friday). It was a well-meaning decision, that unfortunately made it impossible for me to attend the funeral the following Saturday to pay my respects to the girl who I never met, but fought hard to save.

It wasn't until earlier today that I happened across her fundraising page and discovered she had passed.

I knew, of course, when I started this that it was a long shot. That Nadine was in very dire straits, that the costs of her treatment were very very high, that the procedures were experimental. But to be human is to dream, and my dream was that through the kindness of many Nadine could be saved. That her family could rejoice in her recovery, that science and ingenuity would succeed in time to save her life.

I dared to hope that Nadine would live. Knowing what I know now, I would have done it all over again.
Because no one is in this fight alone.

I would like to take the time to thank Everyone who donated to the cause and purchased patches to help Nadine finish the fight. Altogether nearly $2,000 were raised in our fundraiser alone, $1,000 of which had already been posted to Nadine's fundraiser page (I learned of her passing bacause we were nearing the $2,000 mark and I was preparing to post the next $1,000 deposit). Nadine's total fundraiser raised over $55,000 which I have been told will be put toward outstanding medical bills and then the remainder donated to to the Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research in memory of Nadine.

Thank you to all the troopers and civilians who donated to help Nadine. I salute you.

Ashley Sandland
Whitney Hayes
Savoie Troy
Joel Ruprecht
Leighton Tomkins
Yutaka Tanaka
Takefumi Tenshima
Inao Yoshida
Valter Santos
Oliver Diez
Milt nation
Linda Crispien
Edwin Palmero
Dan Kohnke
Wade Gadsby
Gaby Navarro
Dennis Evander,
Maxim Fris
Hideki Shima
Andy Wolf
Gary Collins Sr.
James Cembrook
Kristy Anderson
Roberto Vilchis Portillo
Jeroen Joosten
Steven Garcia
Jason Neurath
Patric Bebie
Yutaka Tanaka
Paul Barnett
M. Ozeroglu
Bernhard Sihler
Tim Cubis
Eric Hartman
Stacey Kiefer
Michael Knowles
Diana Yareli Guerrero cruz
Ted Rivera
Julian Kong
Brenda Shields
Jake Baker
Toni Ali 
Steve Page
Charles Judd
Keven Marion
Adam Goetz
Stephan Petry
Christian Lorkowski
Göverim Osman
Harrison Faigen
Sam Parkin
Ross Moneypenny
Brian Ganninger
Sebastian Koch
John Ferarra
Colin Wells
Sean Mazurek

My Holiday will be a little darker this Christmas, knowing that Nadine's family will be mourning their immense loss. I will take the time at some point, to visit her grave and pay my respects to the girl that fought so hard and bravely.

If you know me, you know I already have a plan for the remaining $1,000. The fundraiser will continue, as previously stated, through the 21st of December, and the remaining funds will be diverted to an as yet unannounced project of a similar nature.

The battle is lost, but the war goes on.

Never tell me the odds.

-TK-66613

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Operation: Force of Hope

Never tell me the odds.

It's been the "Troop for the Cure" mantra since I started this blog, a little less than a year ago. It embodies a simple philosophical perspective that I have held throughout my life. People who know me understand that I am a realist, that I am logical at first nature and that I can assess a situation pretty quickly to determine the probable outcome. But people who are close to me understand that, despite and aside from that trait, I am also a romantic- that I believe in the power of hope and the human spirit, and that if I have faith in anything it is in the ability of people to overcome their circumstances through the power of sheer will, effort, and a little kindness.

Hope is the foundation of will. It nurtures our spirits. It dares us to dream and it spurs us on to make impossible things happen. What I fight for in this world is not victory over death, it is not the salvation of every man woman and child affected by illness or hardship- it's the war to give those people a fighting chance. The means to overcome relentless adversaries, insurmountable obstacles, and impossible odds. This is a war on suffering. We are the soldiers, and the weapon is hope.


Never tell me the odds.

A situation was brought to my attention through some mutual friends of a young woman who has fought impossible odds for the last three years. On the page her sister (a hero)  set up for her I learned a lot about her: Nadine Sfeir was diagnosed with an astrocytoma brain tumor in 2010, and has since undergone numerous forms of chemotherapy and two brain surgeries to no avail. Nadine, who had hoped to attend school to become an international human rights attorney, instead faces one final option for treatment to her life-threatening illness: an exploratory treatment called Novacure and a vaccine treatment only offered abroad. Due to the experimental nature of these procedures Nadine's insurance company has denied her appeal to cover the treatments and the family is left with a staggering $150,000 in medical expenses standing between them and their daughter's last chance.



Many factors have stood in Nadine's path to recovery, but it seems cruel that in the end her limiting factor should be financial. I've never met Nadine Sfeir. I've never heard her voice, or had a correspondence with her. But I believe she deserves the chance to fight for her life.


Now is a time for action.

Operation: Force of Hope is an ambitious effort. With some guidance and assistance from some legendary heroes from the 501st legion I have formulated a multi-front campaign to help Nadine in her battle. The key element to this battle is you, and I need your help.

In the 501st we celebrate and commemorate events with patches. These patches are worn as a badge of honor showing where troopers are from, their squad affiliations, events and charities they have supported, and more.



I have designed a Troop for the Cure patch, to be made available to anyone who would like to make a donation to Nadine's Cause (not just legion members). The Troop for the Cure design means many things to me. The Helmet and Cog are representative of my ties to The 501st legion, and the red ribbon is the symbol for blood born diseases (including multiple myeloma, my fathers cancer). These patches will be sold for $26, and all proceeds from the patch sales will go directly to Nadine to pay for the medical expenses of her treatments. The patches will be advanced ordered and then put into production once enough funds have been raised to cover the cost (Minus whatever I can scrape together to front costs myself).



From there I need your help- not only in the form of donation, but in the form of promotion. The "ambitious" part of this mission of course is the incredible amount of money that is required for the treatment-- if we sold 2,000 patches we would only raise $50,000 for Nadine's cause (1/3 of what she needs). What is encouraging is that Nadine's fund has already reached over $17,000 dollars in the short time her page has been up, and is steadily growing day by day. 

In this magical age of the internet I am confident that we can make Nadine's fight viral and we can sell 2,000 or more of these patches. By doing so, it is my hope that we can give Nadine the boost she needs to make her last stand against cancer. So share. Spread the word and the link and Nadine's story- with your family, friends, strangers- and make a difference.

This story is important to me for many reasons. Because I have a family member who is fighting cancer. Because I know what it's like to feel helpless. Because I have been Nadine's sister. Because every person deserves to fight. I have been witness to the miracle of the human spirit, to the giving nature of mankind, and the power of will. I have seen the power of the 501st Legion, I have seen the strength in my friends and family, and I have seen the impossible achieved.

In the war against suffering, we are the soldiers. The weapon is hope.

No surrender.
No retreat.
Never tell me the odds.

-TK-66613
501st Legion
Florida Garrison
Makaze Squad
First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment


 Order Patches from Troop For The Cure here:

501st members!! can see the legion order thread here:
http://www.501st.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=77726

Read Nadine's Story here:
Please Share her page!


**UPDATE**
Patches are currently IN STOCK and will ship weekly as orders arrive. At this time patches have raised over $1,000 to help Nadine. Please help us continue to spread the word!



***UPDATE***



By popular demand we are doing a run of Troop for the Cure t-shirts and bumper stickers that were available at Star Wars Weekends. You can visit the thread here to view and purchase them:

If you are not a Legion Member, you can order them at my webstore, 

At this time Shirts are PRE-ORDER only, and will be printed once enough have been ordered to print the run (between 50 and 100). Please be patient as these take time to print!

We also posted our first donation to Nadine's fundraiser this week, in the amount of $1,000! 



***FINAL UPDATE***
It is my sad duty to report that Nadine Sfeir  passed away this past thanksgiving. To read more about Nadine please see my updated post http://troopforthecure.blogspot.com/2013/12/operation-force-of-hope-mission-complete.html.  The patches are still available to purchase and the funds that have not already been attributed to Nadine's cause are being deferred to a cause of a similar nature I hope to announce soon. Thanks to anyone who has donated or supported this mission.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Operation: O-bear Wan Kenobie

This blog entry is a message to my little warrior Ethan, for his sixth birthday on June 6th. I met Ethan through a program called Little Warriors, founded by Maci Bates.


 Maci is a survivor of childhood breast cancer, and has decided to take her experience and fight back in a positive way. She began Little Warriors as a Relay for Life team that grew into an internet based "pen pal" program in which children dealing with serious illness were paired up with people who would send them packages, cards, and gifts of encouragement. Once a month these children recieve a random act of kindness from a stranger they have never met. Maci founded this organization before she was even out of highschool, and is a shining example of how one person can touch the lives of many with kindness and compassion.


Ethan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on his 5th birthday. Ethan loves superheroes and his mom has run with this theme and created the "Ethan is my hero!" Facebook page, where friends, family, and even strangers can send him words of support during the complications of his treatment. Ethan was paired up with me in April and since then has received a package of goodies, as well as 2 transmissions from the galactic Empire.



For Ethan's birthday I wanted to give him something special, that had a little more meaning to it than a simple toy. I wanted him to know that his story was being told, that there were people out in the world that cared about him and his battle, and that those same people were fighting the battle with him. I enlisted the help of the 501st and Rebel Legion and we set up a special project for him. May I present to you:


The Story of O-Bear Wan Kenobie


A long time ago in a Galaxy far far away, there was an Ewok named O-bear Wan Kenobie. O-bear was not content in his life as an E-wok, and made the decision to become a Jedi knight. Through years of training and meditation he learned of a child across the galaxy named Ethan who was fighting a battle with leukemia for his life. Ethan was such a great warrior that he inspired O-bear to take a journey across the galaxy and tell as many people about Ethan's fight as possible.


O-bear took his new found passion before the Jedi council, where he was granted permission to pursue his mission. Jedi master Aayla Secura was especially touched by Ethan's story and arranged for O-bear to speak before the Galactic Senate on his behalf.



Escourted to the senate by Jedi Luminara Unduli, O-bear met Tarfful, the Wookie Chieftan of Kachriho. Tarfful sent Ethan a big wookie hug for O-bear to deliver to Ethan when they finally meet!





 Clone Troopers on planet Geonosis met O-bear and took time out of their battle plans to talk with him about Ethan. They were so impressed that they sent this picture to let him know that they wanted to be heroes just like Him!



Kashyyyk troopers performing recon on planet Dagobah were surprised to find O-bear chasing them through the woods for a picture! They too were moved by Ethan's heroics and wanted to show their support!



O-bear spent a lot of time on planet Tattoine-- here he is with a Jawa and a Tusken Raider! He didn't really know what they were saying, but it must have been something about how awesome Ethan is!



Outside of Jabba's Palace, O-bear met a Bounty Hunter named Boushh- at least, he thinks that's who it was!



At the Mos Eisley Cantina O-bear ran into another bounty hunter, Dengar. Dengar said the cantina was no place for O-bear, and he had to go!




Back on the streets of Mos Eisley, O-bear ran into another Jedi like himself! But this Jedi wasn't the one he was looking for, so he decided to move along.



Later on, O-bear met some pilots who convinced him to join the Rebel Alliance! He journeyed with them to Yavin 4, and got to ride in one of their cool starships!



On Yavin 4, O-bear met the three-eyed alien Re-Yees, who was very nice despite being kind of scary looking! Re-Yees liked O-bear's story about Ethan so much that he introduced him to Mon Mothma, one of the founders of the Alliance, where she praised his mission and Ethan's Bravery!



On the ice planet Hoth, O-bear Wan overslept and missed the evacuation! He was captured by Imperial Snow Troopers, but when he told them the story of Ethan's battle, they decided to help him on his mission (even though he was a good guy!)



They sent O-bear back to his home on the forest moon of Endor, where Imperial Biker Scouts and Ewoks had long been enemies. But the scouts were so impressed with O-bears young friend Ethan that they decided to help smuggle him aboard a Star Destroyer headed for Ethan's home planet of Earth!



On board the Star Destroyer, troops sent out a message to help O-bear find someone who knew this brave young Ethan. They Received a transmission from Storm Troopers on Earth who said they knew Ethan, and O-bear Caught a ride with this Tie-Fighter Pilot!



O-bear's Star Destroyer stopped in Orlando, Florida, where O-bear met TK-66613, Ethan's friend in the 501st legion. TK-66613 promised he would make sure O-bear made it in time to Meet Ethan Before his sixth birthday. So check your mail box Ethan, Because O-bear is on his way!

O-bear Wan Kenobie would like to thank all of the friends he made on his journey to meet Ethan, and hopes that those friends will continue to tell Ethan's story across the Galaxy!

Happy Birthday Ethan, and may the Force be with you!

**UPDATE**
I accidentally forgot to put in one more picture of the clone troopers on Geonosis and their awesome troop transport! This has been added. Commander Colt was kind enough to remind me!

Also, if you would like to follow Ethan's battle or learn more about sponsoring your own little warrior, you can visit the following links:



***UPDATE***

Mission Accomplished! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back

I realize that some folks may be reading this for the first time, so let me start by saying this:



Hello there! I am TK-66613 of the 501st Legion, Florida Garrison, Makaze Squad, first Imperial Storm Trooper Detachment. A little over a year ago I pledge myself in eternal service to the Galactic Empire on a mission of peace to bring order to the galaxy. There were many reasons, which you can read about  here, but the main reason was that my father had cancer.


If you don't know, the 501st legion is an organization dedicated to doing good works in the community through the elaborate and incredible costuming taken from the immensely successful Star Wars franchise. It's like the Shriners, or a motorcycle gang, only we are nerds. HUGE nerds. Huge nerds with huge hearts, and an immense sense of duty to the people around us, especially kids young and old the world over.



I started this blog so that my father would have something to read from his hospital bed during the lengthy and isolating process that was his stem-cell transplant, the most current and experimental treatment for his particular and viciously malignant for of Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of blood cells that forms tumors in bone marrow and blocks the normal production of blood cells. It has a slew of adverse side effects, and of course is fatal. The treatment itself is no picnic, a process that brings the patient down to a near-death state and then slowly brings you back, with fresh blood and the immune system of an infant. I wanted him to be able to read about the good things I had done, for others, for him, and in his honor. I wanted him to know that he was loved, and that the example he had set to me in my childhood, of charity, of loyalty, of virtue and courage, and of dressing in silly costumes, would live on, even if he didn't- that he and his traditions would live on and his memory would be the inspiration for some good in this world.

Many months later my father had recovered from his treatment. His cancer cell count was down. He was eating food and enjoying life again. There are permanent ailments, resulting from bone deterioration, such as a sore back and physical limitations, which I'm sure after the hell he had been through seemed miniscule. But my father was not cured. He never would be, and he would never be the same as he was before his affliction with this terrible illness. Currently there is no cure for multiple myeloma, as in the case of many other forms of cancer and other diseases.

And that is why I will not stop. And also why I will strike back.

It was in February that I decided I would start a team for the Altamonte Springs Relay for Life. I had never been involved in Relay prior to this all-of-a-sudden determination, so allow me to present to you why I chose relay for life as a starting point in my campaign. Taken from the Relay For Life Website:

"In May 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, ultimately raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the nation’s biggest health concern – cancer. A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event. Since those first steps, the Relay For Life movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer.

 In more than 5,200 communities and 20 countries, Relay For Life events comprise the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Each Relay For Life event is special to its community, but the movement's true power lies in the combined commitment of thousands of participants, volunteers, and supporters to help the American Cancer Society save lives from cancer

 Every year, the Relay For Life movement raises more than $400 million. The American Cancer Society puts these donations to work, investing in groundbreaking research in every type of cancer and providing free information and services to cancer patients and their caregivers. We're fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer, in your community and everyone else's."

It's compelling. At least I thought it was. And so I set to work building my strategies for the fund raiser. I let loose on a facebook crusade to raise money that climaxed with a fund raiser at the ever patient and ever faithful Oblivion Taproom on the night of my 29th birthday. It was a great night. We were well on our way to our fundraising goal of $2,500 and the relay hadn't even started yet.

Oh yeah. I had a relay to plan too!

The days leading up to the relay became a frenzy- of event meetings, organizing people, getting gear ready. I also hadn't considered that I didn't really have a "team" for the relay-- and I was staring down walking 18 hours, alone, in a plastic suit that might as well have been a furnace. Luckily some very kind and very masochistic troopers volunteered to help share the walking duties, which in retrospect probably saved my life. Once that was taken care of I began the ominous and very spiritual task that is baking my special secret recipe chocolate chip cookies- a process that I cannot divulge the details of, aside from the fact that it took a very, very long time, and that I made about 200 of them.



Relay day came and went. It's all a blur to me really. From my hazy 10 am setup to opening ceremonies to the various themed laps and some weird contest were I boogied down for dollar bills- it was a great time. There were a lot of funny moments, a lot of smiles, and a few moments when the events purpose really just got to people. It's really impossible to relay the experience to you in words. By the end of the relay we had raised $3,100, I had been awake for almost thirty hours, and I had made friends who will last me a lifetime. Our team won three awards for our efforts. It was an emotional process for me, and though at the time I think I was too much of a zombie for the gravity of the moment to fully set in, I know it affected me.





Since this event I haven't stopped- I've done so many troops I've lost count. from birthday party's, to hospital visits, and much more. I found myself at another Relay for Life Event, where we had set up a "blast a trooper" booth and raised another $350 in just a few hours. My Dad had just re-entered the hospital a few days prior due to complications with his treatment, so this event meant a lot to me. He was several states away and there was really nothing I could do to be there for him, so I decided the best place for me was trooping. Trooping for the cure.




 I was handed a candle as part of the lumineria ceremony, and we once again took to the track in silence. I had an experience that night that I will share with you now, in the form of the text message I sent my father:

"Tonight I walked in silence with this candle around the track. It was windy and dark but I guarded the flame with my helmet. The candle light my way through the darkness under a moonlight sky, guiding my steps, until finally, despite my best efforts the candle went out. For a moment it was dark and I could not see, but in time my eyes adjusted and I found my way back to camp. I knew my way back to camp because the light had guided me halfway there. When you go from this world I will know my path in the dark because of the light you have given me. Thank you for taking me halfway there. And I will l do everything I can to keep you safe until you are gone."



I can only dream to become as brilliant of a light as my father has been for me.

It is my hope, that through this blog, and my efforts, that I can reflect the amazing kindness and unshakable will that I see every day-- in the faces of struggling children, in the efforts of selfless caregivers, in the hearts of sympathetic supporters, and in the acts of the 501st legion and their allies to make this world a better place. It is my hope that through this reflection, the desire to do good and the fight for positive change will be echoed through others, that the flame of my fathers memory will spread and live on, beyond him, and beyond me.



No Retreat.
No Surrender.
Never Tell Me The Odds.

-TFTC