Geeky Ways to Give: Fanboy-Friendly Charities

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geekcharitiesAttention, zombie heathens! The Black Friday/Cyber Monday “Occupy GameStop” rush is over, and it’s time to think a little about giving something back.

What? Why are you looking at me that way? Do I have something in my teeth? I’m DEAD SERIOUS, here. We’re a fortunate bunch in this nation, and we should be happy to share what we have.

On the other hand, I am a proud capitalist and think it’s best to let us each decide to whom we should give before the “guvment” (either party) takes it and makes that decision for us. Luckily, there are some great options any geek and non-geek alike would be honored to say they support. Might I suggest a few?

501st Legion (aka Vader’s Fist):  These trooper lovin’ guys and gals do not bill themselves as a charitable 501storganization, but as the “World’s Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization.” To many this is just a group of detail-intensive folk who promote Star Wars and cosplay…and they are. Do not let this fact fool you. This all-volunteer group boasts thousands of members in chapters in more than 40 countries, and NEVER takes a penny for their appearances at everything from hospitals to comic-cons. Instead, they ask that a donation be made to a charitable organization in a true “pay it forward” way. According to 501st Legion Public Relations Officer Nick Bishop, the group’s members love doing what they do — putting “smiles on the faces” of children of all ages.

“The 501st Legion members are all volunteers and if available can be contacted for event requests through our website 501st.com,” Bishop said. “We have been involved in charity fundraisers, birthday parties, weddings, library events and the list goes on.”

Most notably, members of the legion have given their time (and sometimes their own money) to groups like Make-A-Wish Foundation, March of Dimes, Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Toys for Tots and AT LEAST 50 others.  Their charity list is at 501st.com/charity.

Haunts Against Hunger: This group works primarily around the Halloween season, but its effort to “scare away hunger” can help families through the fall and winter holiday seasons and hopefully beyond. This group promotes food drives at haunted attractions, film screenings and other haunted/horror-related events, primarily in California, Illinois, Nevada, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Now in their fourth year, they recently recruited horror movie icon Linda Blair to help take this campaign nationwide. The group hopes Blair’s presence will help make these drives a nationwide happening. Plus, Blair’s own World Heart Foundation (that rescues abused and neglected animals) has inspired Haunts Against Hunger to add the nation’s “four-legged” population to some of their events that not only accept both non-perishable items for local food pantries, but pet food for area pet shelters. Interested individuals can join a team or set up a food drive at hauntsagainsthunger.com.

Stan Lee Foundation: Stan The Man is 90 years of pure awesomeness and his literacy-intensive foundation proves it. As the creative force behind some of comic-books most iconic heroes, he also loves sharing his passion for the creative forces by helping to teach others. This desire to help others develop a love for words and art spawned his foundation that works to provide both youth and adults access to literacy resources, promote national literacy, diversity, culture and arts and, according to the foundation’s mission “embrace innovation, integrity and scholarly and artistic engagement to build a community of learners, collaborators and creators.”

Since literacy and the love for reading and learning is a personal soapbox of mine, I can really get behind Stan’s mission, and I hope many others do as well. Donations accepted “the old fashioned way” via mail at Stan Lee Foundation, 6551 Lionsdale Court Suite 400, Springfield, VA, 22150. Learn more at stanleefoundation.org.

Peter Mayhew Foundation: The very tall man behind the Wookiee mask has a very, very large heart, and hispmf non-profit organization works, with other charities at children’s hospitals, Wounded Warrior Centers and both special needs and at risk children (i.e. Make-A-Wish Foundation).

Mayhew’s mission statement for the organization lists the foundation as “devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, and suffering by providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need.”

The foundation also assists other charitable programs not funded by the community, including 501st Legion and its “good guy” counterpart, the Rebel Legion, by helping with travel funds, accommodations, meals and more.

“The Peter Mayhew Foundation has had opportunities to work with other charitable organizations such as the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ and ‘Wounded Warriors,’” the foundation statement says. “It is for the purpose of providing supportive funds, services and supplies to the needs of Non Profits and other individuals that we move forward, The Wookiee Way.”

In addition to taking tax-deductible donations, the foundation raises funds by selling copies of their young readers books that celebrate each others’ differences: “My Favorite Giant,” and the graphic novel “Growing Up Giant.”

Learn more at Petermayhewfoundation.org.

DC’s We Can Be Heroes: DC Entertainment’s Justice League are the official face of this hunger-fighting charity that focuses on countries in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya) all of which are facing a severe hunger crisis. The organization partners with other nonprofits, Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps, who work to bring aid to the places where it is most needed. In addition, DC will match all donations We Can Be Heroes 100 percent (and up to 75 percent from specially designed lithographs, shirt and other items) towards the cause. That, boys and girls, is what a real hero does. Learn more at wecanbeheroes.org.

Marvel’s Hero Initiative: This nonprofit “safety net for comic creators” was established in 2000 to provide former comic creators (many elderly and in dire need of financial assistance) with emergency medical aid, life’s essentials and even an avenue back into paying work. On the surface, it may not as seem as big a cause as world hunger or literacy, but these men and women who brought superheroes to life through their words and art, not to mention influenced many of today’s best and brightest comic talent, deserve to live out their own lives with dignity and peace of mind. The group takes not only monetary donations, but also donations of vehicles (car, RV, motorcycle, etc.). They are also always looking for volunteers to help man booths at comic-cons and other events. Donations may be sent to The Hero Initiative, 11301 Olympic Blvd., #587, Los Angeles, Calif. 90064. Learn more at heroinitiative.org.

On a similar note, I tend to be the most guilty when it comes to questioning the sincerity of someone who makes millions (sometimes billions) to live in the land of make-believe and be treated like a little Botox-ed demigod, especially when it comes to telling the rest of the nation how to live, vote and especially to whom they should give their hard-earned cash.  However, in the spirit of the season, I have to give credit where it is due, and admit there are plenty of celebrities who do shell out their own money and time to various causes (some of which may give you further giving ideas).

According to the organization “Look to the Stars,” some geek-friendly notables with a charitable heart include:

Peter Jackson: The “Lord of the Rings” director has given to Red Cross, as well as more than $10 million to saving a historical buildings in his hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. He has also given to various cancer-related causes. Jackson and fellow “Hobbit” cast members including Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen and James Nesbitt, took part in a celebrity cricket match in New Zealand in 2011 to raise money for victims of the Christchurch earthquake.

Alan Rickman: Professor Snape’s peaceful side shows with his charity donations, that include several helping victims (including children) of wars and conflicts such as Amnesty International, War Child, Save the Children, Peace One Day and Make Poverty History.

Benedict Cumberbatch: Not only does this “Sherlock” star have the greatest name of any working actor today he is an active ambassador in the Prince’s Trust. This group works with the training, mentoring and financial assistance of at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Britain.

Carrie Fisher: Like many connected to the “Star Wars” franchise, Fisher has supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but has also given to the Alzheimer’s Association and won a Kim Peek Award for Disability in Media this year for sharing details about her own struggles with bipolar disorder.

J. J. Abrams: Attach Abrams’ name to any film and fanboys and girls are ready to give him their money, but Abrams’ has given much of it back to everything from literary, equal rights, arts foundations and more such as Alliance for Children’s Rights, Milk+Bookies, Artists for a New South Africa and 826 National (writing/tutoring program).

Kevin Smith: The smoke-filled face of Silent Bob and fanboy director extraordinaire might come across as just another rich slacker to some, but he has given to groups that help educate, and feed their fellow Americans including Declare Yourself (voter education), Food Bank For New York City, The Lunchbox Fund and the Rap, Abuse and Incest National Network.  By the way, one of Smith’s recurring cohorts, actor Jason Lee is a former professional skateboarder and supports the Tony Hawk Foundation that helps create skateboard parks in low-income communities. He has also supported the Barbara David Center for Childhood Diabetes.

William Shatner: The Shat has literally given of his himself by selling his own kidney stone for $75,000 to help build a Habitat for Humanity home for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He has given a significant amount to at least 12 charities such as Red Cross and American Cancer Society. He also established the Hollywood Charity Horse Show that benefits Ahead with Horses and Camp Max Straus.

In the name of Trekkie fairness, Leonard Nimoy has supported groups like American Cancer Society, American Foundation For Equal Rights and established his own Nimoy Foundation arts organization in 2003. The group provides grants for artist-in-residents programs in the United States.

Also, “Next Generation” alumnus and Twitter guru Wil Wheaton also recently found a fun way to raise money for the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA by auctioning off an old autographed Wesley Crusher trading card, that he accidentally screwed up trying to sign.

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