A five-member family made the trek into Langley from the Sunshine Coast on Sunday, just to be part of the annual Santa Vader charity event at Toy Traders.
Each member of the Friesen family, including their youngest – three-year-old Beatrice – was dressed up in Star Wars themed costumes for the annual photo-based fundraiser.
The Anvil Island family, formerly from Langley (2001 to 2013), recycled costumes they used during Halloween 2018, and got completely decked out to have their pictures taken with Santa Vader, admitted Mom – Megan Friesen – who came dressed as Princess Leia.
She was accompanied by Dad, Kent, who adorned a Luke Skywalker costume (complete with wig), and 11-year-old Lucille, who attended as the Star Wars character of Rey.
Nine-year-old Phoebe offered thumbs up for her BB-8 costume that her younger sister Beatrice (dressed up as Chewbacca) pointed to and explaining she wanted to be BB-8 next year.
“We thought this is a great opportunity to dust off our Halloween costumes, especially Phoebe’s her BB-8 one – that was a labour of love – and do something neat with the kids and it’s for such a good cause,” Megan shared.
First timers to the event, the Friesens performed a quick outfit change in their van and washroom, before stepping into line to have a series of pictures taken with the fellow Star Wars enthusiasts.
“It’s not something we’d do everyday,” Megan said of dressing up and travelling in for this special occasion. “We haven’t fished those costumes out since last Halloween… but we felt this was a good cause to fish them out and put them on… the fundraiser was definitely a motivator.”
Will the Friesens be back? Not necessarily every year, but given their family’s growing enjoyment of Star Wars, Megan is confident they will return again at some point.
This year’s Santa Vader charity event again raised money for the Langley Christmas Bureau, bringing in $2,217 in only four hours, boasted Toy Trader owner and event host Matthew Purdy.
“This was year three, and the most successful Santa Vader event yet. You could feel the excitement in the air… smiles were infectious,” said Purdy, whose 20-month-old daughter, Kamaria, was among those who had to have her picture taken with the Jedi-turned-dark-lord.
The pet-friendly event had several returning individuals of all ages – all admitted Star Wars fans – who were anxious to get their newest Christmas photos with Darth Vader, a few of the Stormtroopers, and R2-D2.
Each year, Toy Traders partners with a worldwide organization known as the 501st Legion, a non-profit made up of Star Wars fans devoted to creating exact replicas of the costumes from the classic film series.
The 501st’s Lower Mainland squadron, known as the Outer Rim Garrison, host a variety of fundraisers through the year aimed at raising money for children’s charities.
This, said Port Coquitlam member Walt Warner, is one of his favourites events of the year.
“We’re here, hanging out at Toy Traders, putting some smiles on some faces for Christmastime,” said Warner. “Life doesn’t get much better than that.”
Warner brought his audio-animatronic replica of an R2-D2 droid.
He explained just how costly the self-funded project has been, saying it’s fair to compare the cost of building this droid to the price of buying a small car.
It took two years to build the R2 unit, many of the pieces moulded off the original droid from the original movie, many of the other pieces made from scratch.
It was no easy undertaking, he said, but emphasized “it was a lot of fun at the end.”
“We built the R2 unit, and he comes around and makes a lot of noise, and cheers up the kids,” said Warner, noting they taken him to visit children at such places as BC Children’s Hospital, the Make a Wish Foundation, and Variety Show of Hearts.
“Anywhere that raises money for charity… for kids, we’re in,” Warner concluded.
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