Spider-Man, Batman, the Avengers, Jedi knights, Tinkerbell and even a real-life hero helped a toy collection effort live up to its new name last week.
What was the Galactic Toy Drop last year became the Super Galactic Toy Drop and Character Extravaganza at Rutland Intermediate School.
The “super” designation was earned when organizer Craig Hahn announced that $10,100 had already been raised. In 2018, the entire push to collect toys and raise money for BROC — Community Action in Southwestern Vermont brought in around $9,950.
Detailed and accurate costumes went beyond Star Wars characters to include Deadpool, Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel, Hela and the Hulk from the Marvel Cinematic Universe; DC Comics’ Hawkgirl; a Klingon from Star Trek films, Ghostbusters and television and Disney princesses, whose secret identities were members of Rutland County cheer teams.
Hahn said he wanted to grow the event he had started to pay back the community members who helped him give his daughter a good holiday several years ago.
“After last year, I was like, ‘Okay, it’s time to invite some of our other cosplayers from around New England,’” he said.
Cosplayers wear costumes based on their favorite characters, many of them created by the cosplayers themselves, to special events like conventions or to community service events like the Galactic Toy Drop or Make-A-Wish Foundation “wish reveals.”
Despite all the characters in the cafeteria on Saturday, posing for photos, talking to young fans and listening to music by bands from area schools, Hahn said the event was originally planned for the gymnasium. He said some appearances had to be canceled, but noted if they can use the gym next year, “there’s room to grow.”
It was clear the stack of donated toys and gifts was substantial. They will go to BROC’s Toys Under the Tree event, which helps qualified families provide gifts to children and teens.
In December, BROC staff will begin making appointments with qualified families to visit the BROC offices so parents can “shop” for free gifts for their children, according to Tom Donahue, executive director of the agency.
Donahue called the third Toy Drop “really fantastic and bigger than ever,” with more and more diverse characters and more visitors from the community.
“We had a lot more children, parents bringing their kids, so they had a wonderful day as an event. They got to meet Santa Claus in addition to some of their favorite characters. But also, at the end of the day, of course, we raised as much money as last year already and we still have two more weeks to go,” Donahue said.
There was no admission fee for the Character Extravaganza, but visitors were asked to bring a holiday gift or sponsor a holiday gift if they could.
Vicki Loomis, development and marketing specialist for BROC, said that morning the event was going well.
“We’ve had to empty the boxes several times, so people have been very generous,” she said.
Loomis said there wasn’t a specific goal, but Donahue said at the end of the day, he believed BROC would be able to help at least 300 families this year.
On the floor, Emma Gilmore, a Rutland High School student, was dressed as Tinkerbell, with characters from “Frozen” — students dressed as Elsa, Anna and Olaf.
“It’s been pretty cool. People have been coming up to us and taking pictures and asking questions. It’s fun to see the little kids get excited,” she said.
Gilmore said she likes that Tinkerbell is magical and can fly, and said she loves “Peter Pan.”
Dressed as Captain Marvel, Emma Powers had an unusual story to tell. Her whole family does cosplay together and travels from St. Johnsbury to events like the toy drop.
“We’ve been cosplaying for nine years as a family, and we’re just here to have fun with a bunch of kids,” she said.
Standing next to two people dressed as Iron Man and the Jane Foster version of Thor, Mike Blair may not have stood out as much as he should. Unlike the cosplayers around him, Blair, a lieutenant colonel in the Vermont Air National Guard, was wearing a real flight suit as an F-35 pilot.
Blair admitted he “didn’t know exactly what (he) was getting into,” but said he volunteered when organizers asked for a real pilot to participate. Other people at the toy drop without a “secret identity” included members of the Rutland City fire and police departments.
Blair said he was also happy to interact with people who wanted to know what real fighter pilots do as part of their active duty.
Maintaining the grim demeanor of the Dark Knight, Jason Wayne, of Massachusetts, was still swarmed by young fans.
He said he enjoyed being Batman in public because it made kids feel important to get their favorite superhero’s full attention, if only for a moment.
Donations are still being collected for Toys Under the Tree. More information can be found at www.broc.org.