My Start at Causeplay
By Rodney Leary
My adventure in costuming started later in life and was born out of a desire to give back to the children in my community, especially those in need. In May of 2015 my youngest daughter, now 4 years old, was born with breathing complications. She could not breathe correctly on her own and was diagnosed with TTN (Transient tachypnea of the newborn). She was transferred via helicopter to a Children’s Hospital nearby where she stayed for the first 5 days of her life. Thankfully she fully recovered and has no lasting side effects from that scary time. Her mother and I gained an appreciation for what the children and the families in that hospital were going through. We met so many amazing people during that time that were fighting chronic illness or life threatening diseases and we knew we wanted to help in some way… we just needed the inspiration.
Fast forward to the next school year and my oldest daughter asked me to read during her first-grade class, a normal request of parents at her school. I was happy to agree; as one of my most favorite parts of my day was the bed time book we shared each night. However, I wanted to make this a special visit for her and her classmates. I hatched a plan to borrow a cheap Halloween suit, Batman to be specific, and got permission from the school to arrive in character.
When Batman came in to the classroom, the kids were so excited! I sat and read three separate books, took questions from these awesome 1st graders, and then posed for photos. I knew right away that costuming for kids was what I wanted to do. My wife and I sat down and devised a 5 year business plan to start our own Non-Profit organization we named Project Superhero Inc.
We started by forming the organization with our state government and then began raising funds by offering advertising sponsorships to local businesses. The businesses of our community were so warm and welcoming that soon we had enough funds to purchase several high quality cosplay suits. At this same time, we had many local volunteers come forward asking to help! Our little nonprofit began to grow. Our first volunteer event was reading at our local public library. Batman made a SUPER appearance at the summertime “Super Reader” program. It was a hit! From there we branched out to reach the children of our community with special needs.
We actively volunteer for the local Special Olympics, Down Syndrome Society, Autism Society, and of course the Children’s Hospital my daughter was treated at. This is in addition to the private events we attend for children with special needs or the fundraisers that help them.
Throughout this time we continued raising funds to improve our costumes and add new heroes to our roster. We also expanded our hospital visits to the center of our state and then also travelled to an out of state hospital. We helped raised over $11,000 for our local Youth Partnership program and also volunteered at summer camp for the Boys and Girls Club to promote healthy living and exercise. We didn’t stop there! Next we began raising funds for our local Relay for Life events and the Children’s Miracle Network. Since our inception, Project Superhero has never turned down a good cause. Our volunteers go above and beyond to support the youth of our community. Many of them taking unpaid leave from work or spending their own gas to travel to these charity events. We know that our mission is to inspire and empower children with hope using the tool of CAUSEplay.
My personal favorite superhero to Cosplay is Batman. I have found that everyone, of all ages, really respond to the character. We have young toddlers and grown men come up to take pictures and give out hugs. My most memorable experience was during a hospital visit. As we were meeting a young boy battling cancer, his mother began to cry. She told us outside the room later that he hadn’t smiled in days… until he saw us. This is why we do this and this is why I love to get suited up.
Throughout all of this we have been fortunate enough to win several online giveaways for Cosplay items that have aided in our volunteer work. I first heard of Xcoser through an Instagram giveaway. Since funding is very tight, we are always trying to enter contests or find affordable costume options. We were lucky enough to win an almost complete Kylo Ren costume. I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the suit and helmet. We have used this suit several times for volunteer appearances and the children we meet really love it (especially when they defeat Kylo Ren in a lightsaber battle).
I have ordered several other items from Xcoser based on that experience and have been happy with each result. The affordable pricing is excellent for an organization like ours, where we are pinching pennies but want to still look the role we are playing.
In summary, Cosplay is not just a hobby for me. It is a tool I use to give back to my community and especially though most in need, our children. The joy and love I receive in return is more than enough to validate the effort I put in. I see myself continuing to volunteer in costume for many years to come surrounded by the support of other volunteers and my family.
Article by Rodney Leary