Meet the Band Of Heroes – everyday citizens who become superheroes in the form of volunteer cosplayers. From volunteering at Make-A-Wish events to smaller community festivals, they are a group of people dedicated to making a difference across the northeast.
The group’s spokesperson and lead cosplayer, Stardoe Soong, started the Band Of Heroes in the hopes of inspiring others. She currently organizes all of the events, gathers cosplayers for each outing, and coordinates all the logistics down to the finest details, such as parking and event festivities.
“Whether it’s professional cosplayers, or those who would love to see a simple Halloween-style costume unfold into something magical, we are all born with the ability to change someone’s life,” explains Soong. “As they get out into their communities and volunteer in a seemingly small way, that can become so huge.”
The Band Of Heroes has been fully booked virtually every month since January. It doesn’t matter if it’s an internationally known fundraiser, or a small gathering at their local library. The volunteers in the Band of Heroes will drive several hours across New England just to make someone else smile.
In their very first year, the group even made national impact with The March Of Dimes. Every walk for the cause they hold will now implement a Superhero run with the children who are survivors of premature birth.
The Band of Heroes also dedicates their time to promoting animal welfare awareness and bringing awareness to local rescues. In fact, their summer team building party became a charity event that collected dozens of bags of dog food, toys and essential materials for Companion Pet Rescue.
“All of our members are screened for costume quality, as well as personal lives to aid in the safety of events and the children in attendance,” Soong tells us. “There is no greater feeling than having a successful event and decompressing afterwards by sharing the individual experiences we’ve had. From a child’s first experience meeting Superman and sharing a hug, to helping a little girl get over her fear of Rocket Raccoon and playing together with Harley Quinn.”
“”We have the greatest cast you could ever ask for. We all enjoy supporting the community and giving back.”
The Band of Heroes opens its arms to both the public and their fellow cosplayers who are looking for ways to make a difference. They always make sure their events are all-inclusive for everyone. They even check in with churches before accepting events to make sure they’re LGBTQ friendly and welcoming to all individuals and families.
And they do a great job at keeping things humorous along the way! For example, they once had a car stalling out in the middle of the highway…full of Superheroes and Princesses. How would you like to see that on your way to work!?
Another time they were pulled over by a police officer so he could get a photo for his child! And sometimes dressing rooms just don’t exist, so they find themselves ‘gearing up’ behind a building.
But it’s all in good fun.
As with any noble cause, there are certainly some challenges in getting their campaign off the ground. In the beginning their team was small, and thus unable to always meet the heavy demand. But through word of mouth, their team has grown exponentially to well over 100 members.
The Band Of Heroes claims that certain events were also hijacked from them by other groups. But they see these challenges as a catalyst for positive change…opening different, and better, doors to the future.
Through meeting so many children and families along the way, some members have unknowingly exposed themselves to the ‘darker’ side of reality that many others choose to ignore.
“I don’t think any of us truly expected the hard side of cosplaying for charitable causes,” says Soong. “There have been several times where children (and parents) will talk to us about emotional moments in their lives, from a parental divorce, to a brother, sister or friend passing away. There was even one instance where authorities had to step in to an abuse situation, after it was shared with one of the cosplayers.”
“You never know what direction a visit is going to go in, even in the calmest or most unsuspecting of visit places. Parents often forget that we aren’t the real thing, too. And it makes for a magical experience that their child wasn’t able to have.”
One of the toughest challenges for the group is when they learn of a child’s passing. They occasionally receive thank you letters from parents who update the group on the child’s final days.
“The parents may have another child and still come out to see you at events, or just come on their own. But we feel a special link to the children that have been left behind. It is the ultimate honor you can have, but also a very tough reward to accept for knowing they’re gone. And yet because of you, their time here was more enjoyable, a little less frightening, and an experience they always wanted to have.”
The members also have some advice for anyone else looking to become that ‘inspirational cosplayer’ or those who wish to start a similar group: all you need is an open heart and the willingness to donate your time.
“You do not need to be a body builder type, or look like Jared Leto to be Superman, Batman or The Joker, a runway model or Amazon to be Harley Quinn, Black Widow or Wonder Woman. All you need is yourself and a friend to get started with something like this, and you’ll immediately attract like-minded individuals.”
“Stay in character and get on the child’s level if possible. Let them come to you first so you know your approach doesn’t cause fear, or stress, or may be too much stimuli for a child with specific special needs/requirements. And when you’re hugging a child or parent, always be the last one to let go – you never know how much they need that.”
They are currently holding adoption events, candle and cookie fundraisers, and a special lower adoption fee on all their black dogs to find homes with their perfect companions.