When I was a kid, I LIVED for thrills and awesome experiences that put me into my favorite stories. Action movies? Yes. At the cinema? Oh yeah! Disneyland? Sweet mother of monkey milk, yes. If I wasn’t living some adventure, I was pretending I was.
When I got older, I decided that I wanted to give those thrills to others, and that’s one of the reasons I started writing. But I wanted to not only create awesome experiences on the page, but for people to experience physically. This is one of the reasons I started to cosplay.
I didn’t start cosplaying or training people in lightsaber combat just to go see sick kids in the hospital, but when the opportunity came up, I had to go for it. Some of these kids have to live at the hospital for months at a time, and they’ve watched ALL the movies and cartoons, played ALL their games, read ALL their books and are just bored of being a sick kid living at the hospital. If I could bring some smiles, some inspiration, I had to try.
I have a friend who was going to the MD Anderson Fall Festival to give away some books. MD Anderson is one of the premier cancer treatment centers in the US, so it was a privilege to be there. And from the moment I walked in the doors, the people and staff there were so friendly and helpful. They have a well-deserved reputation there. I ran into an architect who had designed parts of the building and she escorted me to where I needed to go!
It was so great to see both childrens’ and adults’ eyes light up when then saw us. My friend Holly was also there as a Jedi, and my friend and esteemed publisher, Fernanda Brady, was womanning a booth where she gave out her books. I won’t say much about the children except that they were all having a great time.
For anyone reading this who wants to donate their time in similar fashion, always try to keep a high energy and always remember that you are there for them. If you ever feel yourself becoming emotional for some reason, you need to excuse yourself (I’m getting a call from the Jedi Council, I’ll be right back), and take a moment outside to cry or work through it. Then go back. You want them to remember their moments with a Jedi/superhero/movie character/etc.; you don’t want them to remember that character coming and then crying and depressing everyone.
We had a great time, and they even kept an area open for us so we could do drills back and forth and do some saber spinning, and although I couldn’t watch their faces while we were doing our thing, I think they liked to see it. One boy was dressed as a Sith and we did an impromptu battle and he force-choked me to death at the end. I was really happy to be able to do this, to bring those thrills and memories, and hope they let us come back again.