The Newbie’s Guide to Charity Cosplay, Part 3: Heroes Unite

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Note: This is the third entry in a four-part series about entering the world of charity cosplay. Check out part onepart two, and part four!

You picked your character. You acquired their costume. You’re well on your way to being a superhero for someone less fortunate. But what is just one hero though? If the Avengers, Justice League, and the X-Men taught us anything, it’s that a group of heroes can accomplish much more than any solo underoos crusader. Route 29 Batman rides solo, but it’s always more fun with friends. You’re probably not gearing up to fight Thanos, but finding your own squad to roll with is just as important for your adventures in charity cosplay.

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But if you are gearing up to fight Thanos, I totally want in.

“I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.”

Working with a group of fellow charity cosplayers is simply more efficient and effective than going alone. There are numerous reasons for this. The first is that a group of costumed characters visiting a hospital or charity event generates more excitement than a lone cosplayer. A variety of characters ensures there’s something for everyone. One child’s favorite superhero is different from another’s, and others would be more excited to see a princess or a Star Wars character. No child wants to feel left out, and a diverse variety of cosplayers and characters is the best way to prevent that.

Another benefit of joining or assembling a group of charity cosplayers as opposed to working solo is that every person involved brings their own connections and acquaintances to the table. As Jordan Harbinger at The Art of Charm podcast often says, “Your network is your net worth.” Each new addition spreads the net further. By expanding membership, a group acquires more opportunities for charity events, and, in turn, more people get a chance to meet their favorite character.

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Cover your bases.

Join the Rebellion (Or Empire, Or Mandalorians)

The easiest way to get a group to cosplay for charity with is to, well, join an existing one. No need to go through the trouble of putting together a team when you can lend your time and costume to another established effort. Before heading into an established group though, remember that each and everyone has their own standards for costuming and behavior. Prestige comes with a price.

The most famous charity cosplay organization in the world, bar none, is the 501st Legion. This group specializes in screen-accurate recreations of the characters and cannon fodder of the Galactic Empire of Star Wars. If the villains of that galaxy far, far away aren’t your cup of tea, there’s the Rebel Legion repping for the franchise’s heroes. For some creative freedom in your Star Wars cosplay, there is the Mandalorian Mercs.

Something to note about all three of these groups is that the application process to join is very stringent. When they say screen accurate, they mean it. One can spend upwards of several thousand dollars on a costume, but just about any member of these groups would tell you it’s worth it.

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Pictured: Over $2000 spent on assembling a Sandtrooper

As For the Rest…

Unfortunately for us non-Star Wars plebs, there aren’t any other fandom-specific charity costuming groups with the same notability as the 501st and its offshoots. Don’t let that discourage you though. Just because your chosen character doesn’t belong with those groups doesn’t mean there aren’t groups you can fit in with. It just takes a little bit of effort and research on your part.

There are many smaller, local groups out there spread out across the cospla world. Smaller fandom-specific groups exist at the regional level, such as Heroes Alliance in Florida. The best way to find groups like this is to hit up comic and anime conventions in your area. Established groups often have tables at conventions to promote their charity work and seek new members. This is a nicer alternative than just finding their websites or Facebook pages because you have a chance to meet members and decide if you’ll fit in with them. Teams need cohesion, after all.

Now it’s time for some personal shoutouts. If you’re located in North Carolina like me, I work with two groups I highly recommend. The first is The Excelsior League, a multi-fandom group that makes charity appearances at hospitals, fundraisers, and a swath of other events. The other is The 105th Squad, a group that hosts cosplay crafting events to further skill development in addition to charity appearances. Both groups are filled with wonderful people and are definitely worth your time to join.

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Excelsior even got a shoutout from Stephen Amell (Arrow). We legit now.

With a Little Help from My Friends

There may be zero groups to join in your area. It happens. If that’s the case, then it’s up to you to get your Nick Fury on and assemble your own team of charity cosplay heroes. It’s a daunting task, but you just have to know where to look.

Start with your own social network. Contact your cosplayer friends and pitch your idea of forming a costume philanthropy group. The next place to probe are cosplay clubs, either local or college groups. They already have membership in place, they just need that push towards charity. Once you have a group started, you can start looking to conventions for more recruits. Apply for a table in the dealer’s room or host a panel about your mission, and you’ll be hitting Justice League Unlimited roster levels in no time.

Once you have your squad you need places to send them. Hospitals love a chance to brighten the days of child patients, so a quick call to the main office can get you pointed towards someone who can schedule your visit. Outside of hospitals, local charity organizations that serve children are also worth contacting. Volunteer Match is a great way to locate them. Lastly, just letting your friends and family know you do charity cosplay work can open new opportunities. They may be involved in a charity, or know someone who is. Networking is everything.

One last point about forming your own group: Don’t cause drama with other groups. Don’t gossip. Don’t spread rumors. If you have an issue with another person or group, talk to them directly about it. Enmity distracts from the real mission: helping people. You’d be surprised how often this happens among supposedly mature adults.

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“Heard you were talking shit about my cosplay crew.”

“Go and save the city!”

Charity cosplay is a rewarding and heartwarming experience, it’s even better when shared with friends. Find or create a group, then prepare for the real meat of the experience. Stay tuned for the conclusion when I discuss the most important aspect of charity cosplay: Interacting with the kids you volunteered to visit. See you next week.

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