How the Star Wars community gives back to Calgary

You can find community in the oddest of places. The sense of belonging and being part of something, of try to make the world a better place. Whether it's a religion, a sports team or, as one Calgarian tells us, being a fan of Star Wars.

Will you choose the light or the dark side?

Star Wars fans pose at Chinook theatre in Calgary during the release of the new film The Force Awakens. The movies are central to Tosche Station, a group of Calgarians who have found community. (Stacee Barton/CBC)

Acceptance. Tolerance. A sense of belonging. Support and understanding. A shared passion. This is what community entails. Though my community may not look like most, it embraces these same values and principles.

I have been a Star Wars fan for many years, but I never really shared my passion out in the open. 

It wasn't very popular for a girl to like "boy" things. And I never felt comfortable enough to really show my passion. Being a "geek" was unpopular. That is, until I moved to Calgary.

A co-worker found out that I shared her passion for Star Wars, and she introduced me to some people who were also fans. 

When I first met them, I was in awe. They had costumes, they BUILT light sabers! They had in-depth conversations about the films, and books — the entire Star Wars universe.  And they weren't shy about their passion at all.  This was a community of people who were just like me!  Becoming a member of this fantastic group changed my life.

Celebration 5 with Dave Filoni, in the hat, who is the supervising director of the Clone Wars, and Joel Aron, hands raised, who is the head of Visual Effects for the Clone Wars series. (Submitted by Yrol Perera-Murney)

Tosche Station — the Calgary Star Wars Fanforce — came together a little more than 10 years ago just months before the release of EP III: Revenge of the Sith. 

We started out with a small group of 10 to 12 members, and over the years have grown to more than 60.  Our membership includes those who like to meet monthly, and those who pop in occasionally — in person or via the internet — to catch up on the latest news and views in the Star Wars universe.

Just 2 things needed to join

Tosche Station is a special community of people.

There are only two requirements to becoming a member of the group:

  • You must be over 18.
  • You must love Star Wars.  Any race, gender, religion or political affiliation — be it Imperial, Rebel, Mercenary or ordinary galactic citizen — is welcome to join us.

It's a community that fosters discussion, healthy debate and understanding with regards to the Star Wars universe.  Our members come from all walks of life — students, professionals, skilled tradespeople, artists, families, singles, couples, costumers, gamers, collectors, book and comic fans. 

Being part of this special community of fans reaffirms that Star Wars touches everyone. 

It gives us a place we feel comfortable to share what we love.  I've made some incredible friends and connections through the group.  Some members met in the group, and even got married! 

We trade collectibles, help each other find things and share information.  We travel together to Star Wars conventions worldwide, and share incredible experiences together.  It's made me realize that I don't have to conform to societal norms of what's expected or respected. The way the greater community of Calgary has embraced us has also shown that we live in a vibrant, tolerant and accepting city. 

Group much more than Star Wars

We've volunteered at many local events, including annually at Kids Day during the Calgary Stampede, and at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.  We've done events for the Alberta Children's Hospital and other public events. We even came together and volunteered during the flood a few summers ago, helping people clean mud out of their basements.

Team Red 5 in the Light the Night Walk to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. (Submitted by Yrol Perera-Murney)

About seven years ago, we met a young boy and learned of his battle with leukemia.  After each chemotherapy session, Matthew and his mother would stop by Tosche member Ryan's comic and toy store.  There he would talk with Ryan about Star Wars and sometimes get a toy.  It made his hospital visits slightly less arduous.  Ryan told the group at a meeting about this young man's bravery and courage.

Surely there was something we could do to help?  And so Team Red 5 was formed, and each year we fundraised on behalf of Matthew, with all proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

Star Wars universe brings people together

We raise money each year through the sale of Star Wars-themed merchandise, donated by our members, at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.  We've also built Star Wars-themed deck chairs and raffled off tickets to win one of these unique items. 

Thankfully, Matthew's leukemia is in remission now.  But each year, Team Red 5 walks with Matthew and his family, in the annual Light the Night Walk — light sabers held high, in support of Matthew's continued good health, as well as for those who lost their battle against this dreaded disease. 

The Star Wars universe brings people together — it's a really incredible thing. 

You can be from any country, and make a connection through your passion for Star Wars! The lessons in the Star Wars movies are universal and speak to everyone. And being part of such a large and diverse international community is a real treat.

The Calgary community has embraced us, our causes and has supported us enthusiastically over the past 10 years. I'm so lucky to live in this great city — and be part of this fantastic group of people. 

Calgary at a Crossroads is CBC Calgary's special focus on life in our city during the downturn. A look at Calgary's culture, identity and what it means to be Calgarian. Read more stories from the series at Calgary at a Crossroads.


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