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Heidi and H.E.R.O.I.C. Inc, Cosplay for a Cause

Cosplay is a fun hobby for many costumers out in the world. Some take their costuming skills to a whole new level often called "Cause-Play." This is when you pull out that costume, get in character, and help charity or someone in need. Many different groups have formed from this idea. The Mandolorian Mercs and the 501st Legion are two Star Wars based groups that are all over the United States. Here in Utah we have one smaller group called H.E.R.O.I.C. Inc.

H.E.R.O.I.C. Inc at Hastur Games in Salt Lake City.
This group has about 37 members, 60 characters, and can do about
60 events in a year. They are hard workers and are dedicated to
helping out charities. 

This is where Heidi comes in. Heidi is one of the founders of H.E.R.O.I.C. and she is the sweetest person ever. I met her a little over a year ago. My younger cousin is down-syndrome and he loves super heroes and many cartoons. There was a Buddy Walk being held for Down Syndrome in our hometown. I had heard of this group that would dress up as heroes for events like this one. I sheepishly messaged them on Facebook, unsure of how they would respond to travelling an hour to my town. They agreed to come and it was amazing to have them there! We had Batman and Heidi was Catwoman! Even Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast came. My cousin was very excited to meet the various characters. He even dressed up as Aang from the Avatar: Last Airbender series.

Heidi as Catwoman
The first thing I noticed with Heidi was her passion. She loves being able to help her fellow man and doing service runs in her blood. She was very fun to talk to and she knew just how make the kids smile, no matter the child's background. Heidi is a truly wonderful individual and I asked her to talk about H.E.R.O.I.C. for December. This month is a month full of holidays and the spirit of helping others. I met with Heidi at a Toys for Tots event this last month and asked her about service and the wonderful group of people that she works with.

Down Syndrome Buddy Walk 2012
Eric Allen Hall as Jack Sparrow. Eric has about 26
registered costumes with H.E.R.O.I.C. James is Batman.
Dan Stephenson is Outcast and Heidi is Catwoman.
VFire is the Wasp.

Links for H.E.R.O.I.C. Inc.

Interview with Heidi

What got you into costuming?

That is a complex question for me. If it is what got me into the cosplay side of costuming then that would probably be me going, "You know it would be fun to be Catwoman for Halloween. Let's see what is online... That sucks and that sucks and ohh, that is horrible. [Talking about store bought costumes] No, no, no..." What would it take for me to make one? I'm not that good. So I just got all the pieces together and modified them heavily.

Afterwards people were like, "Where did you find that? An Actual comic book accurate Catwoman!" And then suddenly with that costume I was connected with everyone who does costuming around here. I did not know that there was that kind of community around here. I thought I was the only one in Utah who was stupid enough to do a comic book accurate costume.

For costuming in general, I grew up with my parents making very complex costumes, like Puss and Boots, as a kid. I did this giant mask as a kid with light up eyes and it would make this roaring sound. With my family nothing was false.

One of the most touching moments for Heidi and Dan.
Dan is in his Outcast costume and VFire's cousin and another Down syndrome
girl came up to hold both his hands.
The Down Syndrome event that VFire invited them to was one of their dream
events to help and support. this moment made it all very worth it, even the long drive
from Salt Lake to this event.

How and when did H.E.R.O.I.C. come to be?

Well, about two or three Christmases ago there was a Toys for Tots event here at Hasturs Games and Comics. Neff, who is the Mandolorian Merc, would invite all his costuming friends, and the Mandolorian Mercs, to do Toys for Tots. James, his friend, had a Batman costume so Neff invited James come troop with him. So it would be mercs plus batman for a lot of events. Neff started inviting more people like Tim Winn and his Iron Man costume to come to Toys for Tots and other events. So he got a whole bunch of other costumes here and [Neff] realized, there is no club for these [characters] who are not Star wars. He got about 12 people together and said, "Hey, we need to do this. We need to have a group that is for Comic Book and Video Game Heroes." The 12 of us got together and decided, "How do we make this a reality?" They asked for someone to help lead it and I jumped in to help as a leader along with Dan and James and we made it work.

James as Batman and Neff as a Merc.

Define H.E.R.O.I.C. in your own words.

Well, it really comes down to the name of it which is Heroes Engaging Real Organizations in Charity. That is what it is to me, a charitable group that helps support fundraisers. I heard someone in another costuming group wanting to use their group to actually change the world; to actually solve cancer, to kind of give you an idea. Well, you know, we can't necessarily do that much. We will never be even nearly popular enough where we will make a difference, but we can help other organizations make a difference by showing up and helping these organizations get a few more donations. I say if we get $20 extra more for someone we have made a difference and that is to me the focus and point of H.E.R.O.I.C.

Yes it is fun to have the costumes. Yes it is fun and slightly narcissistic to get up there and get the attention, but that is not the point. I am just as gratified to get up and there and be a handler [someone not in costume who helps the costumers with water, wardrobe malfunction etc.] I will see a kid staring at Batman, just staring. I can go up to them and ask them, " Do you want to see Batman?" I will get a terrified nod. I can then lead them up to Batman and help them meet their hero. That to me is just as gratifying, no more actually, to do that. To see a kid meeting his hero is greater than someone recognizing me in or out of costume. To see the joy in their faces...

One of the things that touched me the most didn't even happen to me. It was an autistic child. He wasn't speaking to anyone and was standing off by himself. He saw Spiderman and suddenly he ran up to him and wrapped both arms and legs around him and just stayed there about five solid minutes. I about started to cry. To me that is gorgeous. That is beautiful.

To me, it is about serving the community, it is about going out and helping others. That is what H.E.R.O.I.C. is to me.

What is the toughest part of H.E.R.O.I.C.?

It is probably being in leadership for me. It is not necessarily that there is drama. It is more just remembering all the details, making sure everything is taken care of because if we forget a details we could accidentally offend a charity. I do not want to do that. The hardest thing is making sure out customers are pleased. The charities are our customers. We are there to help and serve them. There are different needs for each one. Making sure that everyone is happy and everyone is taken care of is tough. I want to make sure that they not only liked having us there but they would want us back so we can continue serving them.

Dartanian as Annakin Skywalker, Neff as a Merc, Heidi as Catwoman, and James as Batman.

What was the best moment in H.E.R.O.I.C. for you?

It was after an event. I was at a Rubber Ducky Derby. They sent me a thank you letter saying I made a difference in these kids lives. I started crying and I... that is so... I don't expect things for what I do. It is really nice of them. Truth be told, to be thanked and told that you made a difference in these kids lives that is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Just knowing that that is a wish kid who said that I was helping.

I try to keep religion out of it but as a religious person I feel like this is my calling. I am doing what my god wants me to do. I have a really hard time serving the way I am asked to in my church. I have anxiety attacks and it is very difficult for me to go church and to do service activities with them. When I put on a costume, or put on a mask, I feel like I can do something, that I can be someone else. I can be stronger and I don't have these anxiety attacks. That means I can serve; even when I am in handler's T-shirt, that even feels like a costume. I can be someone else and I can serve. To get that thanks [from those kids] it makes me feel like I am doing what my god wants me to do. To help my fellow man and do the things I do.

Even taking religion out of it, we should all be kind to our fellow man. That is what religion, ethics, call it what you want, is about. Being nice to other people is what we need. That is how we survive in this world. If nothing else and I die and there is no god I will know I made a difference and be at peace. I will know that my service was appreciated.


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