Part of building a fan organization is finding ways that the organization’s mission can also help those less fortunate in the local communities you serve. One of the driving forces in Mandalorian Mercs has been volunteerism and helping those that need help.
One of the cultural aspects written into Mandalorian society by Star Wars authors is the open adoption of war orphans by the group’s warriors. I felt like this was something that Mandalorian Mercs could build on as a theme for focusing on charitable purposes. In 2007 we created the “Verd’ika Fund” (verd’ika = Little Warrior in the Mandalorian language) which would focus on helping provide a happy holiday for children who would not receive one normally. That first year, members of Mandalorian Mercs donated around $250 in a four-month-span, which was used to buy presents for a child in Ohio. Seeing as MMCC was less than a year old with maybe 30 members, this was a huge accomplishment to coordinate in such a small amount of time.
In 2008 we rolled the Verd’ika Fund program out early, and still continued to raise money internally from members willing to donate. By the time November had rolled around MMCC had raised $750 from members — three times what was raised in 2007. It was decided that the money raised in 2008 would be used in my local area of North Carolina, so I partnered with a local radio station known for its holiday charity programs to find some children in need.
I was able to find a local family with three children who had lost everything in a recent house fire. After contacting the parents and getting a “wish list,” my wife and I raided all of the local toy and retail stores to fill every single item on the list (and then some).
Side-note: The day my wife and I arrived with the gifts for the kids, the children’s father pulled me to the side and gave me something very special. He himself was a huge Star Wars fan, and had lost his entire collection of toys, memorabilia, and movies during the fire. The only piece of his collection to survive was an un-opened VHS director’s cut of Episode I, which had been completely untouched by the fire. “Please take this, and use it to help some other kids,” he said. Needless to say it was a very emotional moment for both of us, and today that unwrapped VHS tape sits in MMCC’s archives to one day fulfill his request of using it to help other children in need. It’s still a very emotional memory.
In 2009 MMCC decided to start working on raising money for the Verd’ika Fund from beyond MMCC members so that we could expand our outreach to help more children. After some serious brainstorming, we came up with a plan to use a fun event at local conventions and events which would get the public involved. We named this event “Mandalorian Bounty Hunt,” and it proved to be a huge success. Convention or event patrons would donate an amount of money to the Verd’ika Fund to have their friends/family arrested by Mandalorian Mercs members, and imprisoned in a prop jail cell for a specific length of time. This fund-raising event became a huge success, and even today is a regular occurrence at conventions/events around the world. The Mandalorian Bounty Hunt has become MMCC’s signature charity fund-raising event, and has even been held at Star Wars Celebrations.
In 2010 MMCC expanded the mission of the Verd’ika Fund to also help local children’s charities around the world who shared similar goals. By 2012 MMCC had become a tax exempt non-profit organization, and with that the decision was made to expand the Verd’ika Fund even more by making it the official charity wing of the Mandalorian Mercs. “Little Warrior International (LWI)” was born, and the Verd’ika Fund became a project within the larger charity wing. In addition to the Verd’ika Fund, LWI raises funds to help with disaster relief, child education, and local children’s outreach programs.
One of the major initiatives started in 2014 is a program we call “Operation B.O.B.A”; Bounty Hunters Opposed to Bullies Alliance. Operation B.O.B.A takes the message of anti-bullying on the road through panels and literature available at conventions and events around the world on the dangers of bullying, and where to find help for those affected by it.
Helping the less fortunate, giving back to the community, and seeing a smile on a child’s face is proof positive that you can bring hope to those in need through the power of Star Wars.