Tag Archives: non-profit

Chris Pratt: Using Star Lord to Make a Difference

Chris Pratt Charity

Chris Pratt is offering the chance to hang with him on set. Check out his fundraising campaign for details. Seriously. I bet he’s awesome to hang with. 

Thanks to my Star-Lord project, I’ve developed quite an affinity for all things Star-Lord. I’ve grown to appreciate the complexity of his character, what he stands for, and Chris Pratt’s depiction of him in the movies and public appearances. I get particularly excited when someone, particularly the actor himself, uses the character for charitable purposes. Chris, more than many other actors, recognizes the power of his character to advance charitable causes, raise money, and lift the spirits of those around him.

Yesterday, I was excited to see that he’s at it again. In an effort to raise money for his hometown Boys and Girls club, Chris is offering some awesome goodies and a chance to visit him on the set of Guardians 2. How cool.

Boys and Girls

From Chris’ site, here’s a picture of kids from his hometown who utilize the club. In his words: “who you’ll help.”

For me, the value of this campaign isn’t the in the rewards. It’s seeing Chris Pratt trying to make a difference by utilizing a character that people love. It’s in him using his fame to improve the world in a small way.

I’m going to support that. Speaking as someone who ran a fundraising campaign for charity, the number of donations matters as much as the total money raised. I don’t have much money to spare, but I’m going to scrape together to do what little I can.

Let’s spread the word and help Chris out.  If you appreciate Chris and managed to scrape something together for a donation, leave a comment!

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.

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!

Rocket Booster Controls: Part 2!

These were a fun little art project. Let me remind you what they looked like when I received them:

As you can see, it needs some finishing work.

As you can see, it needs some finishing work.

Using an X-ACTO knife, I cleaned out the grooves and tried to smooth out any rough parts on these props. Once I was satisfied with the grooves, I spray painted them flat black.

Spray painting the booster controls. I made sure not to fill the grooves with paint by overdoing it with the paint.

Spray painting the booster controls. I made sure not to fill the grooves with paint by overdoing it with the paint.

Using a brush this time, I slowly applied a layer of silver Rub-N-Buff to give it a dirty, metallic look.  I left the center button black to match the film used prop. When I liked the look, I sprayed it with a coat of glossy Deft to protect the paint.

One thing I noticed with the Rub-N-Buff is that it NEEDS the clear coat. With paint, you can get away without the protective coat.  You would be taking a chance that the paint chips, but you could handle the prop carefully and get away with it. Not so with Rub-N-Buff. Because it is wax based, a thin coat never really seems to dry completely. It will rub off and blemish if touched with enough force. Just a word of caution there.

Anyway, here is a step by step look:

Finished product on the right. Thoughts?

Finished product on the right. Thoughts?


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!

The Undershirt: The Devil is in the Details

The undershirt, like the pants, seemed easy to me. At first. Unfortunately, I’ve been stymied by details, once again.

My first challenge is finding the right color. Interestingly, Chris Pratt seems to wear numerous colors throughout the movie, from a darker gray to a light blue.  I guess this should be comforting. It shows that, despite his “filthy” ship, Peter Quill does care about clean clothes. Or at least the appearance of clean clothes.

These are some shots showing the undershirt.  Unfortunately, the lighting isn't great in two of them, but you get the idea.  Stop staring at Chris Pratt's abs.

These are some shots showing the undershirt. Unfortunately, the lighting isn’t great in two of them, but you get the idea. Stop staring at Chris Pratt’s abs.

So, basically, I’m going to poke around the internet until I find a shirt that is lightweight and seems to match one of Star-Lord’s shirts.  Peter’s varied undershirt wardrobe should give me many options and some choice.

So what’s out there?

Option 1: The Hanes Long Sleeve Beefy T-Shirt

The Hanes Long Sleeve Beefy T-Shirt. A very basic option.

The Hanes Long Sleeve Beefy T-Shirt. A very basic option.

So, this is the basic option.  Peter’s shirts look a little heavier which makes sense.  It is probably a little chilly in his tiny ship and some insulation would help. The collar doesn’t quite match the one above, but that’s not to bad. The best part about this shirt? It’s cheap. You can get it on Amazon, but I think it’s cheaper on Hanes.com.  Oh, and it comes in 30+ colors including a light blue and darker grays.  I thought this gray was about right. Here’s a picture of a blue which I think would work as well:

This blue would definitely work.

This blue would definitely work.

In addition to color, the photos above reveal some details of Peter’s undershirts which are easy to miss. First, take a look at the collar of the shirt on the left. It think, ribbed, and sits a little high. There are also some seams running down his shirt which are pretty unique. The Hanes shirts work for style and color, but they’re missing these details. I bought them as my fallback, but did not stop my search.  I am determined to find one that is pretty close to perfect. Little bits of texture – like the collar and seams – are the difference between costumes that look like imitations and ones that really pop. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful thus far.

I spent hours trying to find the right collar.  The problem is that the collar doesn’t really match the style of shirt. I’ve found similar collars on some jumpers and sweaters, but all the ones that look right are on heavy, winter garments which wouldn’t work.

I’ve also tried searching for thermals and mock turtlenecks, to no avail. So, for now (and after 3 hours of working on this blog post and trying to find the right shirt), I’m going to settle for the Hanes shirts and see If I can make them work. For now, there is no option 2. I’m not giving up, though. I’m sure the perfect shirt is out there somewhere…

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!