I’m not a morning person. Fred is. I hit the snooze button for an hour before dragging myself out of bed. Fred bounces up the moment his eyes open. For the sake of my career (and a deep desire to not be homeless), I grudgingly get up Monday through Friday and put on my happy face.
Saturdays are sacred. The earliest I will agree to get up on a Saturday is 7 am and it has to be for a damn good cause. Like an amusement park. And even then I’m probably going to gripe.
When Fred informed me he had agreed for us to participate in the Jacksonville Children’s Christmas Party with Costumers with a Cause, I was thrilled. Wow! I get to dress up as Ursula and entertain children? I’m totally in. Point of note — he told me this weeks in advance of the event and provided few details. Smart Fred. He knows how to work me.
The week before the event, he reminded me we have committed to participating. Here’s the conversation as it went down:
Fred: Don’t forget, we agreed to do the Christmas party on Saturday.
Elle: What Christmas party?
Fred: The Costumers with a Cause Christmas party. With all the kids? You’re dressing up a Ursula? I’m going to be a Jedi?
Elle: OK. What time?
Elle: I’m sorry, what time?
Elle: OH HELLLLLLLLLL NOOOOOOOO! 7 am? That means I have to be up by *counting on fingers* OMG LIKE 4 AM! I’ll die! I’ll kill a kid! For sure, I’m going to kill a kid if I have to be up that early. And then I’ll kill you. And everyone around you. Prepare to die, Fred.
(Though I’d deny it to the end, some may say I used words like F*@&, those, and kids in the same sentence. Probably not in that order. Probably.)
Fred: You said you’d do it. You won’t back out and you know once you get there you’ll have fun. Kids love you.
Elle: *mumblesimgonnakillyoumumbles* Fine.
Saturday morning comes and the alarm goes off at 4 am. I snooze until 5 (of course). I get up, put on my Ursula gear, grumble my way out the door and head to the Prime Osborne Convention Center.
We meet up with our fellow cosplayers who are decked out as superheroes, princesses, cartoon characters, and movie stars. Everyone looks great, as always! The grumbliness begins to melt away. Hell, I’m awake anyway and now have a solid amount of caffeine in my veins. OK, this isn’t so bad after all.
Our event coordinators tell us that our group will be in the parade with Santa and Mrs. Claus and escort us out to the Mustang convertibles we will be riding on. Cool! No, like seriously cool. Cold actually. The morning is overcast, windy, and bitterly cold. We shiver as we waited for the parade to start. For a brief moment I think, “Why am I here? I could be in bed… Bed is warm. I like bed.”
And then the parade begins. And we see the line of children with their families who had been queuing since the night before for a chance to go to the Christmas Party.
Over 10,000 of them.
Some are wrapped in blankets. Others huddle on the laps of their grandparents who are confined to wheelchairs. Several are pulling carts filled with all their belongings. When they see us come around the corner, they cheer and smile.
OMG I’m such a piece of crap. A selfish, grumpy, and-did-I-mention-selfish, piece of crap.
In that moment, my surliness fully disappears as does the chill from my bones. The warmth of these beautiful smiling faces transform me and I am delighted to be a part of this incredible experience. I am given a gift — the opportunity to make thousands of children happy.
For the next several hours, we help kids pick out bicycles and pose for photos. There are hundreds of hugs given and received, and tons of giggles giggled. Though our feet are tired, none of us wanted to leave — as long as another child wants a picture, we want to stay.
I’ve never felt so good to be a cosplayer than I did that morning. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
A special thank you to Nancy Nelson from Twisted Sisters Cosplay and Jenna Esposito, aka Wonder Woman, for organizing the event and inviting us to participate. You guys did a great job! Shout out to Heather Blackwell from Geek Chic Photography for the beautiful photos from the event. It’s a delight to look at all the bright faces from the day and see how happy they were.
Forgive the moment of schmaltziness from an otherwise cynical grumpy Ursula-type lady, but we should truly be grateful for all we have because there are people right here in our own neighborhoods who have so little they are willing to wait outside in the cold for the chance to receive a few small gifts. For some of the families we met, those gifts were the only ones their children would receive. We are blessed with bounty and should joyfully give our time and treasure to others.
If you’d like to get involved with Costumers with a Cause, visit their website HERE. It’s a great group and they’re doing great things.