501st uses Star Wars to keep area kids into summer reading at the Ocean County Library
The Remnants of the 501st Legion is a global organization of Star Wars fans who build their own costumes based upon the Star Wars Expanded Universe and put their hard work to good use for community service work. All done, dressed as their favorite Star Wars characters of course.
Locally, the Northeast Remnants (NER), based in New Jersey handles all of the local charity requests and this summer has been busy in and around Ocean County helping raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and helping the Ocean County Library System raise summer reading awareness through Star Wars. Recently, the group was in the Brick Township branch of the library as the grand finale for Librarian Michelle Brzowski’s annual summer Star Wars camp for families. Each year, Brzowski, a fan of Star Wars herself, hosts a 3 night Star Wars camp for children of all ages to the library. “Each night we did something different. One night we made lightsabers, we played pin the lightsaber on Obi-Wan and learned how to use the force. “ Brzowski said “On the third night, as we did in past years, we invited the 501st to come and talk to the kids.”
The 501st gave the children a crash course on how to construct their own Star Wars costumes and told the kids while Star Wars is a great movie series, there’s so much more to learn about through reading the hundreds of books and novels written about the Star Wars Universe that go beyond the movies themselves. Brzowski says that everyone always has a great time and this year has spread Star Wars throughout the Ocean County Library System. The 501st also made appearances in the Lakewood, Baville, Barnegat and Beachwood branches of the Library.
The members of the 501st posed for pictures with the children and even showed off a real life sized version of R2-D2. The 501st spreads good will through Star Wars. This past June, the group helped Jackson Township Mayor Mike Reina raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at Six Flags Great Adventure in the annual Walk in the Park. The Six Flags event was more than just a charity event for the NER’s Darth Vader, Beachwood resident Lance Starmer. “It was an honor to do such a great walk, as it turns out this particular walk hits home for me” Starmer said “My son goes to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.” Starmer, who was dressed as Darth Vader was joined by his son Aaron who was dressed as a Biker Scout and Sith Cheerleader Allyson Silvers, also of Beachwood.
The rest of Lord Vader’s patrol consisted of John Kraemer, of Toms River who donned an impressive set of Sandtrooper armor that even George Lucas himself would be proud of, Biker Scout Warren Mundell of Edgewater Park, Jedi Luke Skywalker James Thompson of Bridgeton and X-wing pilot Chris Feehan of Mineola, New York.
In May, the 501st participated in the Great Strides Walk for Cystic Fibrosis in Bradley Beach and had two appearances with Weird Al Yankovic in concert in Englewood and New Brunswick. They have volunteered their time for the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, Cooper Hospital in Camden, animal rescue fund raisers and Boy Scout charities. After hearing about the Childrens Miracle Network walk in Jackson, Starmer and his team decided to put their rebel and imperial differences aside and walk together along side Mayor Mike Reina’s Team Reina.
The 501st, while not associated with Lucasfilm is much adored by the company. “We consider the members of the 501st part of the extended Lucasfilm family,” says Steve Sansweet, head of fan relations for Lucasfilm Ltd. “They have fun and share a sense of community, while at the same time bringing joy to a lot of people through their work with kids, raising money for charities, or just posing for photos with surprised but delighted ‘civilians.’”