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Anonymous Jedi treats 140 at-risk Calgary youth to private Star Wars screening

An anonymous donor brought new hope to a group of at-risk Calgary youth on Sunday by whisking them away to a screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Kids treated to movie, pizza party

Larry Leach, board chair of Cornerstone Youth Centre, poses with kids after seeing the latest Star Wars film. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

An anonymous donor brought new hope to 140 at-risk Calgary youth on Sunday by whisking them away to a screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The donor rented the theatre for the youth, 120 of whom were involved with Kids Up Front, a charity that provides them with experiences, and 20 of whom were from the Cornerstone Youth Centre. 

Cornerstone board chair Larry Leach said youth in the age group Cornerstone serves (Grades 6 to 9 students) are often trying to figure out who they are. 

Stories like Star Wars reinforce that we've had obstacles, we've come through those obstacles and we're better for that adversity.- Larry Leach

"It's a vulnerable age and this centre provides a place for them to figure out who they're gonna be," Leach told CBC News. 

"It gives the kids an opportunity to see something that, who knows, may change their lives."

The group was picked up in a bus, taken to the movie and then treated to a pizza party back at the centre afterward.

Volunteers from the 501st Badlands Legion dressed as a Shadow Stormtrooper and a Jawa also joined in on the fun.

Twelve-year-old Cole Boulton wore his Star Wars shirt to the screening.

Cole Boulton said his favourite genre is sci-fi, so he was excited to see the latest Star Wars. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

"We sometimes wait for movies to come out for rent, because I have a baby brother we can't really go out," he said.

"I feel really grateful for this and yeah, it was a really fun experience."

It's the third year in a row donors have treated the centre's youth to a Star Wars movie, taking them to The Force Awakens and Rogue One in previous years.

In 2015, Luke Skywalker himself recognized the donors' generosity, when Mark Hamill tweeted about the act of kindness. 

Leach said the saga gives kids an opportunity to latch on to strong role models, like Yoda or Princess Leia — two of the franchise's heroes that youth at the centre named as their favourites. 

"Stories like Star Wars reinforce that we've had obstacles, we've come through those obstacles and we're better for that adversity," Leach said. 

"You can fight against evil and give up, or you can keep fighting."

With files from Mario De Ciccio