By Joseph Golfen
On Saturday morning, thousands of walkers turned up at Papago Park out to raise money to help fight Multiple Sclerosis during the "MS Walk on the Wild Side." Little did participants know that waiting for them was a battalion full of scum and villainy. The Empire’s troop were there! Stormtroopers, sandtroopers, speeder captains, Jawas and other character from the Star Wars movies were littered throughout the crowd.
But don’t worry, they were just there to march for a cure like everyone else.
For the past eight years the Dune Sea Garrison, the Arizona chapter of the 501st legion, has turned out at the MS walk in Phoenix to help raise money for the charity. The 501st legion is an international Star Wars fan organization that wears film-accurate uniforms of many characters from the fantastic universe that runs the marketing gamut from the successful film series to multi-platform video games.
The Dune Sea Garrison spends most of its time as a group raising money for local charities, such as the MS society, the American Cancer Society, Toys for Tots and others.
Kevin O’Conner of Surprise, or TD0013 as he’s known in the group, has marched in the MS Walk for the past eight years and says it is one of his favorite charity events.
“The MS Walk is something we can really be proactive in and help out the cause,” said O’Conner. “At Some of the other events all we can really do is show up and make people happy with the costumes and that’s good, but this walk really gives a chance to be active and really help make a change,” he added, though his voice was muffled by his Sandtrooper helmet.
Next month, the Dune Sea Garrison will continue their mission to raise money for charities by wearing their elaborate costumes to a Christmas toy drive at Toy Anxiety in North Phoenix.
“Events like the MS Walk are a great way for us to come together as a group, raise some money and have a great time doing it,” said O’Connor, just before walk began, and the Garrison marched together towards the other-worldly terrain of the Papago Buttes.
Photos by Paul Golfen