Course of the Force, the Star Wars-themed relay of a lightsaber down the California coast, wrapped up its second year last night. The relay started at Skywalker Ranch, the workplace of "Star Wars" producer George Lucas near Nicasio, California. "Jabba's Pleasure Barge" and its entourage of tour buses and shuttles, arrived in San Diego eight days later at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Course of the Force is a substantial fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Make-A-Wish grants wishes for kids with life-threatening illnesses, such as a trip to Disney World or meeting a famous person. It's also some great brand exposure for Star Wars and big-name sponsors such as Qualcomm, Ford, State Farm, Hasbro and Rubie's Costumes
This was also the second year that me and my photographer-husband, Chuck Cook, ran a leg in the last day of relay. We weren't the only Houston connection. Octagon Global Events, which figures out the complicated logistics required to pull off the traffic-stopping relay, has a Houston office. In fact, their representative coordinating our bus of merry fans grew up in Jersey Village.
Nerdist Industries, the ever-growing digital media empire that is co-helmed by nerd king Chris Hardwick, promotes the race every year via social media, a lead-up video "story" and recap videos each day of the relay.
Course of the Force is a fun opportunity for Star Wars fans to get out and strut their stuff in costume, and celebrities get in on the act as well. This year's participating celebrities included G4 alumni and Course of the Force co-hosts Alison Haislip and Alex Albrecht; Molly Quinn from the TV series Castle; Michael Rooker from The Walking Dead; and actress Danielle Panabaker.
The real honorees, though, are the Make-A-Wish kids and their parents. A Make-A-Wish child starts each day of the relay and another completes the last leg.
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Participants paid a $150 donation each to participate and were encouraged to form teams and do some fundraising. We're proud to say that our team, the HTown Jedi, had so much generous support from Houstonians that we ended up as the top fundraising team by the end of the race. As of this writing, we raised $3,616 for the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Besides the opportunity to rub shoulders with other philanthropic Star Wars fans and make some new friends, each participant also received a swag bag and their very own Hasbro lightsaber (helpful for practicing those showy Jedi moves for next year.)
The creativity shown by the participants is often amazing. One of the runners on our bus crocheted her Twi'lek costume. Another constructed his vacu-formed complicated Clone Trooper costume from an extensive model kit. Mash-ups happen with funny results, like the real-life doctor who came as OB/GYN Kenobi.
All in all, it was a terrific event and a life experience to be treasured. You can bet we'll do it again next year. Check out all of the lead-up videos and daily recaps at the Course of the Force web site!