“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
When it comes to charitable endeavors, the creators and fans of Star Wars have lived by Yoda’s words and chosen to do. George Lucas led the charge with philanthropic work, but fans also decided to follow the path of the light, much as their hero Luke Skywalker did, and gave their time and service to worthwhile causes.
The dedication of Star Wars fans to charitable causes inspired Lucasfilm and Disney to create Star Wars: Force for Change in 2014. Since its inception, Force for Change has focused on empowering and improving the lives of children around the world by highlighting individual acts of heroism and professionally organized campaigns. Star Wars: Force for Change established a partnership with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and has since accomplished notable feats, such as raising over $8 million towards UNICEF’s programs to put children first. In total, over $12 million has been raised for charitable organizations around the world.
In 2016, the holiday season coincided with the much-anticipated release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Star Wars fans were invited to make toy donations to Toys for Tots from a special Amazon Wish List, with Nissan matching the donations up to $150,000. Another Rogue One partner, Duracell, pledged to donate 1 million batteries to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, releasing a 60-second commercial — “How the Rebels Saved Christmas” — to coincide with the effort.
This was followed by a special event staged by Duracell and Force for Change for the patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which included character appearances, Jedi training, and screening of new Star Wars Rebels episodes.
Around Giving Tuesday, Star Wars: Force for Change launched a new fashion-meets-fundraising initiative inspired by the themes of the Rebellion from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Ten influential names across film (including Rogue One stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, and Riz Ahmed), music, fashion, and sports came together to support UNICEF Kid Power by creating a line of “Force 4 Fashion” t-shirts available exclusively in the U.S. at Target (you can learn more about the initiative here).
While the holiday giving projects initiated by Star Wars: Force for Change, Lucasfilm , and Disney proved successful, Star Wars fans graciously took it upon themselves to spread good cheer with several Rogue One-themed events of their own. LiningUp.net raised money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation by organizing a two-day lineup event at the legendary TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX for a screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from December 13th to 15th. LiningUp previously staged events for the Star Wars prequel trilogy films and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Other charitable fan events celebrating Rogue One were held around the world. A family in Michigan, whose son suffers from the neuro-muscular disorder Friedreich’s Ataxia, organized a screening of the film to benefit the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance on December 16th. On the other side of the globe, the non-profit organization Motivation Australia arranged their own Rogue One viewing on December 17th to raise funds for their work assisting people with disabilities in the Asia Pacific region.
For almost 40 years, fans of Star Wars have shown that dedication, teamwork, and helping others are crucial to improving our world. With their continued support, much more can be accomplished. As Luke learned from Yoda on Dagobah, the path to making a difference involves patience, learning, and doing what is right.
Written by: Jay Stobie