She’s a Star Wars fan of imperial proportions, and eight-year-old Gemma Bostik is being recognized as such this weekend in Langley.
This aspiring young storm trooper is receiving a hero award, a Galactic Empire medal, and her own customized patch as she’s inducted as a member into the special order of the 501st Legion.
With more than 10,000 fans around the world, the 501st Legion is a group of people dedicated to constructing and wearing screen-accurate replica costumes of the “bad guys” from the Star Wars movies.
The division in B.C. is known as the Outer Rim Garrison, and in keeping with their motto of “Bad Guys Doing Good,” they host numerous fundraisers and initiatives for various charities.
This weekend, they’re hosting this special induction and awards presentation for Gemma at Toy Traders in Langley on Sunday, explained Nicholas Harrison – a good friend with Darth Vader.
Then, the ceremony honouring Gemma will be followed by a chance for the public to take pictures with the legion members. Photos are taken with customer phones and cameras, by donation to Gemma’s charity of choice – the Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
The photo shoots will go on from 12:30 to 4 p.m., Harrison explained. And special Star Wars patches and coins (the subject bearing a strong resemblance to Gemma) will also be available for sale – again with all proceeds going toward Muscular Dystrophy Canada, an organization that helps support children, like Gemma, with neuromuscular conditions.
Gemma was born two months premature in February 2010. She had a complicated birth, endured resuscitation, femur fractures,and a brain bleed, and doctors honestly didn’t expect her to live.
It was only suspected in utero that she had clubfoot, Mom explained. But at birth it was determined that she had something much more serious – a rare neuromuscular disorder.
She underwent five surgeries in her first year and a half of life.
“This child who was born without movement, who wouldn’t have ‘purposeful movement’, who may never leave the hospital, is now a happy, silly little girl with an amazing personality, anti-gravity movement in all four limbs, fine motor skills, and cognitive abilities that have surpassed doctor’s expectations,” Amanda elaborated.
“Gemma has her many on-going challenges, but she is truly is a miracle and we are so proud of our daughter and supporting her through her journey,” Mom said.
Gemma uses a wheelchair and requires 24-hour care, but her mother, Amanda, and her father, Charlie, strive to make her life as normal as possible, and help her live every day to its fullest.
In that quest, Amanda recently reached out to the Outer Rim Garrison, who had in past broken their own rules and visited her at Ladner home for her birthday.
This time out, Gemma’s family and the garrison members are ramping up their efforts.
Gemma knows something is going on this weekend with the 501st Legion, and that she gets to visit Toy Traders again. But the scope of her impending induction is not completely understood.
“We didn’t let on how many characters will be in attendance or that they will be lining up to welcome her into the ceremony, so that will be a surprise for her,” Amanda said.
“She is really proud of the ceremony and thinks she is ‘famous’ because she’s been asked to sign some patches. She thinks she is good friends with Darth Vader and looking forward to seeing him.”
To call Gemma a “huge” Star Wars fan is an understatement, said her mother Amanda.
“Gemma developed her own strong interest for Star Wars around three years of age, I believe she was still non-verbal at the time and remember her pointing to the characters in the books.”
The fascination with the characters has flourished from there, and her mom joked that Gemma has a real thing for the dark side.
So likewise, to call members of the local 501st garrison big fans of Gemma is an equal understatement, Harrison said.
“She’s our hero… Her resilience is infectious. Gemma is a real lovely spirit, and she inspires us to do better… we’re going to make this as imperial as we can.”
This day, he insisted, will be all about that little girl.
“We can’t even put in to words how amazing the 501st have been… We are truly grateful and thankful for everything they have done for our daughter,” Amanda concluded.
WATCH: Gemma (then five) loves singing and dancing to Bruno Mars songs, including Uptown Funk.