Tag Archives: CASA

Turning a Passion into Fundraising (or What I Learned)

This was an amazing project. Expensive, stressful, and daunting at times, but amazing. When all was said and done, we raised over $1,500, far more than I imagined was possible when I began!

To recap, this project consisted of me painstakingly creating a superhero costume in preparation for a 5k hosted by a local non-profit that helps children in need. The goal was to raise as much money as possible by using social media and a blog to update donors on my costume progress. The project ended at the 5k where I was able to connect with the organization I was supporting and a group of civically engaged individuals who shared my passion for helping those in need. I received countless messages of support along the way, was featured in a local non-profit blog, and learned a ton about fundraising. Here are some of my takeaways:

1. Passion matters. In this project, I aimed to combine two things:

– Supporting a local non-profit that I care about. (i.e. CASA)

– A hobby or passion I enjoy. (i.e. creating my Star-Lord outfit)

Both of these were important. I don’t think I would have had as much fun if I couldn’t passionately communicate CASA’s mission or if I didn’t care about what they do. Similarly, if my project wasn’t something I generally looked forward to working on, I would have burned out. When picking an organization to support, choose you are become emotionally invested in.

2. Momentum happens. Once I started blogging, I began receiving feedback from friends, family, and strangers. People started to follow the project. As people realized what I was doing and recognized the time, effort, emotion, and money I was investing in the process, they began to donate. These donations spurred me to continue blogging and the cycle repeated itself. Blog, feedback, donations, blog. Once I realized that people are invested in what I was doing, emotionally or financially, there was no way to stop. At least, no way to stop without feeling incredibly guilty about letting everyone down. Once you commit, you have to see the project through.

3. Convey your passion. This is why people donate. Sure, your donors feel good about supporting a good cause, but that’s not why they do it. There are countless worthy causes, organizations, and campaigns out there that need money. They donate to support you. You have to convey your passion for the organization, the hard work you’re putting in, and then show them the results. That point deserves its own bullet…

4. Show your donors the results. I received a ton of feedback from individuals who had already donated. They enjoyed seeing my updates, my training, and pictures from the day of the run. A donor is someone with whom you have developed a relationship. They are invested in you and your project. You owe them feedback. They love seeing the results and you will love showing them.

5. You can apply anything to this method of fundraising. The link between my “hobby” and the organization I was supporting was fairly self-explanatory. CASA created the Super Hero run and I merely picked the costume I wanted to create. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t create your own campaign using whatever hobby you enjoy and any organization that needs help. There are numerous platforms online for you to create a fundraising page. Pick a project people can follow and an organization that you love…and get started!

Projects like these enrich your community, enrich you, and enrich those who follow your progress. Fundraising doesn’t have to be tedious. You can do good in the world and enjoy the process as much as the payoff.

The “Run”

After months of preparation, costume design, and annoying my friends on Facebook, the run is complete. Here’s how it went down.

My morning began at 3am. Because my wife was helping to run the event, we had to get there early. Super early. At 4am the park was dark and cool. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. After arriving, I helped place signs, set up tables, and move boxes of t-shirts.

It is amazing how much goes on behind the scenes to make these events happen. There were hundreds of volunteers to direct, water stations to set up, and tents to arrange. Despite everything we had to do, it went smoothly and everything was ready by the time the first runners rolled in.

And roll in they did – over 2500 runners in all. Supermen, Batmen, Ninja Turtles, Marvel, DC, Nintendo and Nickelodeon. Simple costumes and elaborate costumes. I saw it all. Although I spotted several Groots, there were no other Star Lords in attendance.  So, luckily, I had a unique costume. Unfortunately, Star Lord doesn’t really stand out.  Very few people realized who I was. I think most people assumed I was some random futuristic biker. But all of the Groots knew who I was…so there’s that.

He is Groot.

He is Groot.

Before the run, I spent most of my time watching the costume contest. It was great seeing people show off costumes they put so much time into.  I have to say, my favorite was the “Mario Kart” family. Hilarious, and ingenious. Eventually, it was time to head to the starting line. I made my way there and ended up near the end of the pack.  That was fine with me.  I wasn’t looking to win any speed medals. In fact, I was so paranoid of dropping the Walkman that I ended up walking the majority of the route.  My brother, dressed as Duffman, walked with me.

I’m not going to lie, it was warm. Hot even.  The jacket and the pants are not ideal for running/walking. However, I’m proud to say that I survived.

Guardians of the Galaxy...and Robin with ice cream.

Guardians of the Galaxy…and Robin with ice cream.

Found some other Guardians at the run.

Found some other Guardians at the run.

Here is the full getup!

Here is the full getup!

A Thought Provoking Banner…

At an event this weekend, I came across a CASA banner posted in a hallway.  I read it, reread it, and took a picture before moving on.  It made me think, not only about the important work CASA does but the power of a strong role model and/or guardian in the life of a young child. Before I go on, let me share it with you:

CASA banner

As I walked down the hallway of the JW Marriott (to an event I was late for), I considered the banner and the story it told. How many children go through their lives without a healthy role model to guide them? Many, I’m sure. The challenge is identifying these children, identifying mentors, and bringing them together.

Identifying the children who need help is the first step, but there are many agencies and organizations already dedicated to this work. Schools, CPS, and even concerned private citizens look for signs of abuse, hopelessness, and depression in today’s youth. We have thousands of children in our CPS and foster care systems who, according to the state, need something more than their biological parents were providing. Agencies struggle to help the parents and the children. Oftentimes, though, children face uncertainty as they are moved from place to place, though the system, with no one person to lean on, look to, and rely on. That is where CASA, and organizations like them, try to step in.

I’m firmly convinced that, for every child in need in our society there are many strong adults willing to be role models and guides. America is filled with wonderful, giving people. The challenge is recruiting those with a little extra time to spare, showing them how they can help, and giving them the ability to do so. CASA aims to bring these people together – the children in need and an adult willing to be there for them as they work their way through the CPS and foster care systems.

Unfortunately for me, my profession keeps me moving and I don’t want to be in the position of leaving a child I’ve formed a bond with. The best I can do is spend a couple of months raising money for the people doing the work that I can’t. This banner reminded me why this project is so important to me.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks to those who have donated!

Midway Point…

So, we’re at about the midpoint of this project. I fully realize that it’s been a while since I’ve updated you all on my progress.  It has been an incredibly busy week!

I’ve been working on a number of projects over the past few days and so the costume building was somewhat sidelined. I’m not going to lie, after a long day of work and with multiple demands on my time, it is sometimes hard to motivate myself to work on costume pieces.  I’ve managed to put in a few minutes here and there, but not as much as I would like. With the clock ticking down, I’m starting to get anxious!

That being said, I wanted to take a second to thank you all for the encouragement I’ve received over the past few weeks. What has inspired me more than anything, besides the knowledge that I’m supporting CASA’s mission, is the support I continue to receive from readers, social media connections, and friends. I can’t thank everyone enough! With that being said, I’m ready to get back into costume building, and look forward to continued feedback and support from you all!

I have a few updates to post over the next few days.  For today, I wanted to share a picture of my desk.  It pretty much captures where various “crafting” projects are at:

My Desk. Rocket boosters, blasters, headphones...

My Desk. Rocket boosters, blasters, headphones…

You can see that I have a ways to go with some of these!

As always, I’m grateful for all the encouragement and I know CASA is grateful for all the donations they’ve received thus far. Thanks again!

One Month In…

So here I am, about 30 days in. I can definitely say that this project has been far more work than I imagined it would be when I started. I considered the time and money each piece would require to find, but didn’t think about the hours and hours I would spend customizing each item. The sanding, gluing, painting, sealing, etc. It adds up. The money adds up too. I doesn’t seem like a lot when each item is purchased days apart, but when I add it all together, and take into account the cost of crafting materials, the cost is significant. Quite significant. It’s a little stressful, honestly.

However, I have to follow that sentiment with this one: all my backers have made this project worth it. I’m blown away by the generosity of all those who have donated to the campaign thus far. Every time I get a little stressed out by the work I have yet to do (and the money I’ve spent) thus far, I remember that together we’ve raised $1000 CASA over the last 30 days. That’s incredible. So, thanks to my donors, blog followers, and everyone who has supported me thus far.  Let’s keep the train rolling!

I recently purchased a few new items that I can’t wait to share with everyone. As soon as I get them, expect some awesome updates. Stay tuned and spread the word!

Raised Progress

Chris Pratt Visits a Children’s Hospital

A few days ago, Chris Pratt reminded me that it only takes a small amount of effort to make a child’s day.

On June 20th, the Guardians of the Galaxy star stopped by Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to visit with some of their patients.  Despite his busy schedule, Chris spent hours lifting the spirits of those in need. These pictures come from the hospital’s Facebook page and tell the story of his visit better than I ever could.

Is this a wonderful picture, or what?

Is this a wonderful picture, or what?

The Jurassic World lead brought some goodies from the new hit film and personalized them for the kids.

The Jurassic World lead brought some goodies from the new hit film and personalized them for the kids.

For those who have seen Jurassic World, you know what this picture is...

For those who have seen Jurassic World, you know what this picture is…

I'll bet this patient will remember this visit forever.

I’ll bet this patient will remember this visit forever.

Chris poses with the kids.

Chris poses with the kids.

What an inspiring story.

For me, this served as a reminder of how small efforts and actions can have a huge impact on those who are in need, especially children. In a weird way, it makes Star-Lord feel like a real life superhero and not one that exists purely in the Marvel cinematic universe. I’m excited to finish the costume.

For anyone who would like to donate a couple of dollars to my fundraising effort for CASA, they can do so here!

Abused Children: Inside Out

INSIDE OUT: The emotions. Joy holds a memory.  ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

INSIDE OUT: The emotions. Joy holds a memory.
©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I had two things to do tonight – attend a screening of Pixar’s Inside Out and write a blog post. Although I intended to write about a costume item, I can’t stop thinking about this movie and its implications. The movie explores the workings of a young girl’s mind and emotions. Riley, the main character, is 11 years old and spends the movie struggling with a major life change. We watch the story unfold, both inside and outside her mind.

I promise I won’t give any major plot points away.

The world Pixar creates inside Riley’s head is complex and insightful. Her entire personality and her resilience – her ability to deal with adversity – is based on certain “core memories.” These are Riley’s foundation. For Riley, these memories are filled with Joy. Created when she was very young, Riley’s core memories are consistently reinforced as she falls back on them again and again while she grows. Because her core memories are happy, Riley is essentially a happy person and uses this happiness to overcome challenges.

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar's

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out” opens in theaters nationwide June 19, 2015. ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The implication is that we all have core memories and strong personality traits defined by them. But what happens when our core memories are not happy, but sad? Or angry? Or Fearful?

The implications are tragic. A child whose core memories are any of these would be defined by the corresponding emotion. When faced with adversity, a child without joyful core memories would fall back on something else. Like fear. Purely fearful core memories would result in a child cowering and running when challenged. Anger would cause a child to lash out when dealing with hardship. Sadness could lead to deep depression.

This is what life must be like for abused and neglected children.  In this Pixar world, the traumatic events abused children experience would be so strong and defining that sad and fearful events would make up the bulk of their core memories. This would affect the way they act, the way they confront challenges, and the way they view the world. Sadly, it is very hard to change core memories. They are the foundation.

I, like Riley, was fortunate enough to grow up with joyful core memories, memories I can fall back on when things get rough.  Others aren’t that lucky and find themselves confronting life with a shaky foundation, one that leaves them prone to distress and anger.

Maybe we can’t change the sad or fearful core memories, but we can add a little joy to the lives of these children. Create happy memories and nurture them. Give the emotions living in their heads the tools and the base they need to deal effectively with challenges and, well, life. Maybe, hopefully, we can add a splash of yellow to memories that are currently blue or purple or red.

That’s what this project is about. I’m just a normal guy, but at least I can dress like a Marvel character and raise a few dollars for those trying to help them.

(Inside out is a wonderful film, by the way)

The pants are in!

I came back from a trip this weekend to find *drum-roll* the pants.

Not what I expected.

I mean, they’re not bad, just a little different. To start, they’re a little more lightweight that I thought they would be. When I think of motorcycle pants, I think of heavy material, with a little faux (or real) leather.  These remind me of the snow-pants I wore sledding when I was a kid. Without too much padding.

Star-Lord seem like the type of person to wear rough, distressed, leather and tough canvas pants.  The type of pants that can take a beating and keep on going. The type of pants that Peter Quill had worn for years and years…maybe without washing. These pants are not those pants. These pants might be able to take a beating, but not many more than one.

That’s not to say that they aren’t cool looking, They are cool. Darn cool.  Just not quite what I had imagined.

Anyway, now that I’ve conveyed my first impressions, let’s take a look at some of the details.

First, the obvious.  There are some logos and patches that need to be removed. Star-Lord was not advertising “Riding Tribe” in the film. Luckily, everything looks to be sewn on so that, with a care, I can remove the unneeded patches.


Notice the stitching which should be easy to remove.

The stitching is harder to see on these, but is there. This logo should come off easily as well.

The stitching is harder to see on these, but is there. This logo should come off easily as well.

Here’s a close up of the material:

It is mesh in some parts. This is great because it somewhat mimics the multiple fabrics of Peter Quill's trousers.

It is mesh in some parts. This is great because it somewhat mimics the multiple fabrics of Peter Quill’s trousers.

Here is a side by side of the front:

Star-Lord on the left. My pants on the right.

Star-Lord on the left. My pants on the right.

As you can see, they’re not at all an exact match. However, they are a good baseline. As I said in a previous post, Star-Lord’s pants are custom so short of hiring someone to make me exact replicas – or miraculously developing some serious sewing skills – I was always going to have to make due with “close.” And these pants are close.

They just need a little work. First, I’ll have to remove the logos and pocket. After that, well, we’ll see if there’s any way to modify them further.

Thoughts, suggestions or comments? Leave them below…especially if you will make me a custom pair of Star-Lord pants in exchange for advertising to my four readers!

Why CASA? (true story)


The court room was fairly empty the day I visited. Lawyers sat in the front row with an emotional mother who dabbed her eyes periodically. In the rows behind, a few CPS case workers read through their notes and whispered to each other. Everyone was waiting for the judge to enter, the judge who would decide what would happen to a child who CPS recently removed from her mother’s care.

The judge entered and the day began. The mother testified about the progress she had made and her lawyer made the case that it was enough. CPS and the state brought up their concerns. The judge sat and listened, asking thoughtful questions and gathering the information she would need to make this difficult decision.

And then, at one point, a woman took the stand. After she said an oath, I learned that she was the child’s assigned CASA. The judge proceeded to ask her questions about the young boy. How were his interpersonal skills? How does he act when he talks about his mother? What does he say about school? What does he want? Does he want to go home with his mother?

Slowly, thoughtfully, she answered each question.  Her answers and her tone of voice reflected the time she had spent with him and the relationship they had developed. She had been his CASA, a figure in his life, as he had moved from temporary home to temporary home. She was there for him throughout the transitions and was at court to advocate for him.

I found out later that she was a volunteer, that there were many CASA volunteers. But not enough. As the Family Court dockets grow in size, CASA can’t keep up with volunteers. But they’re trying. One CASA for every child – that’s their goal.

This is an organization worth supporting. This is an organization worth giving $5.00 to. This is an organization worth registering a website and fundraising for, even if it means hours out of each day and money spent on a superhero costume.

Thanks for reading! As always, I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

The Blasters…

For this transformation, I’m starting with the easy projects. First on my list: Star-Lord’s blasters.

His Quad Blasters, to be precise.

These things are cool looking, even for a casual sci-fi fan. Just look at the screenshot.

Yeah, these guns are cool. Uber cool. Photo credit: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia. Click the picture for link.

Yeah, these guns are cool. Uber cool. Photo credit: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia. Click the picture for link.

Like I said: cool. So where do I get my hands on a couple of these bad boys? After doing some research, there are basically two feasible options.

First, I could 3D print one.  After poking around online I found that an enterprising fan named Helagak on theRPF.com has painstakingly created a 3D print file for a Quad Blaster. Awesome. It seems that a number of people on the forum have printed copies successfully. Oh man, would I love to create an original prop with some 3D printed plastic weight to it that I can wave around (responsibly) the day of the race!

The biggest problem with this course of action is that I don’t have a 3D printer. I’ve never seriously considered owning a 3D printer. They intimidate me. They seem too amazing to be true, honestly. Like magic. Now, I could find someone to print it for me. There are services that link you up with 3D printing enthusiasts. I could also grovel on the RPF forums or go to a Fedex location (I hear they’re doing 3D printing now, right?). This is a lot of work for this ancillary prop, though, and I have no idea how much it would cost.

Luckily for me, there is a budget option. I present the Nerf Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord Quad Blaster:

Wait...why is it orange? Photo courtesy of Amazon. Click photo for link.

Wait…why is it orange? Photo courtesy of Amazon. Click photo for link.

This blaster is the right size and the right shape (and FIRES UP TO 25 FEET!). Costing a mere $13.50 (thanks Amazon Prime), this is definitely the way I’m going. I’m going to have to figure out how to paint the thing, but that should be a fun project. Hopefully.

I would love to have blaster with the heft of a 3D printed model, but with the potential cost of the rest of Star-Lord’s getup, I’m going with the cheap option here. Click. Ordered. On my way to being Star-Lord.