In a Galaxy not so far away, a group of Star Wars fanatics have banded together and using the Force are raising money for charitable organisations across the land.
The 99th Garrison is a Star Wars based costume group, formed in 2010 as a way of bringing a Galactic Empire twist to events throughout the UK.
Despite focusing more on impersonating those from the Imperial Army (the Dark Side), the group’s exploits have veered more towards the light in recent times, seeing them raise more than £24,000 for various charities this year alone.
The group primarily raises money for Dreamflight and the Walking with Giants Foundation. However, they do support other charity days and they often make an appearance at corporate events – asking that a donation to a charity of their choice be made.
Joanne Edmundson (30), from Burnley, was recruited two years ago after finally succumbing to this more charitable side of the Force.
“I’ve actually always considered myself more of a Trekkie than a fan of Star Wars but seeing the work the group does and the smiles they put on people’s faces, it’s just something I had to become involved in.”
The former Walshaw High School pupil now ranks as regional officer for the 99th Garrison, a role which has her overseeing troops across Lancashire.
This includes keeping an eye on her own two little Ewoks, Breaghan (six) and Eleanor (nine), who dressed as a Tusken Raider and a Jawa respectively, are now regular participants.
“They love it,” said Joanne. “I love it. It’s really good fun and you get to meet lots of new people. It’s surreal but it’s so much fun.
We don’t have many Darth Vaders because, well you can’t really have a Darth Vader who is 5ft something. Luckily though we have one of our 6ft. 4in. volunteers from Chorley coming over to help usJoanne Edmundson
“The group technically covers the North-West, North-East and the Midlands but there’s no real base of operations, it’s all done online. I look after the Lancashire area and ours troops are always in demand. Some events, like the ones at the Trafford Centre, we’ll have 40 people there whereas when we are collecting at say a supermarket, there may only be two.
“Everyone who takes part is a volunteer and so the number of people who can attend an event depends on how many people are free. A lot goes into it.”
And with The Force Awakens hitting cinemas this week, it’s been Death Star Stations at the ready as Star Wars fever reaches galactic proportions.
“The past few months have been crazy. We’re going to be at Burnley’s Reel Cinema on Wednesday night for the midnight showing and again on Thursday for the tea-time showing. We actually have Darth Vader coming on Thursday as well which is fantastic. We don’t have many Darth Vaders because, well you can’t really have a Darth Vader who is 5ft something. Luckily though we have one of our 6ft. 4in. volunteers from Chorley coming over to help us.
“I’m really looking forward to the film. The cinema has been kind enough to let us go along and watch the midnight showing after our work is done as well. I can’t wait.”
The 99th Garrison is always looking for new members to join their alliance. More on the group can be found by searching ‘99th Garrison’ on Facebook.