By Ivan Cazares
The Route 66 Sandtrooper Detachment raised more than $1,200 for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles by hiking around Griffith Park in full “Star Wars” Stormtrooper armor on April 3.
Stryder Brown, also know as Hip-Hop Trooper, started the annual Sandtrooper Hike in 2014. He came up with the idea as a joke, but it quickly became a way to raise money for children in need. The group raises money using a Go Fund Me page. A link to the page can be found at hiphoptrooper.com.
The group also sold t-shirts designed by Tee No Evil to help raise money. Tee No Evil is a t-shirt printing company founded by Frances Te and his brother Franco Te. It donates a portion of its proceeds to the Red Cross.
The Detachment is part of the fan organization the 501st Legion, which is dedicated to the construction and wearing of on screen-accurate “Star Wars” costumes.
The legion has grown into an international organization and participates in casual, promotional and charitable events. It is known as Vader’s First and often receives requests to appear at events from the creators of “Star Wars” Lucas Films.
There is a friendly rivalry between subgroups of Vader’s First.
The Route 66 Detachment members consider their armor the most authentically weathered and take pride in raising money.
“Raising money through social media is easy. I (would) rather do something physical,” Brown said. He pointed out the people that came out to support the group as one of the positive aspects of doing charity work in person.
The Detachment and its supporters hiked 10 miles in 90-degree weather. Their armor is made of plastic. It has no ventilation and can weigh as much as 30 pounds.
“You have to be crazy. This thing is uncomfortable. I started this, but we’re all leaders. This wouldn’t be possible without these guys,” Brown said.
“We are all passionate about this,” Steve Copeland, also known as Tattooed Trooper, said.
Brown explained that being able to raise money by doing something one is passionate about is very fulfilling. Copeland said they would continue their annual hikes as long as they continue to receive support.
“This is our thing. It won’t stop,” Copeland said.