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Cosplayers join forces to help celebrate 'quarantine birthdays'
LONDON, ON -- Some people have a way of making the best out of the worst situation. Erika Huffman Puccio is one of those people.
'Operation: Birthday Rescue', a group on Facebook, was created by Puccio in April to help during the current crisis.
Colt, Puccio's nephew, was the only child in his class unable to celebrate his fifth birthday due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It was then that Puccio decided to create a way to celebrate while physically distancing. She reached out to a group of cosplayers to see if anyone would be interested in filming a short birthday shout-out to Colt.
Cosplayers are people who dress in costumes that represent their favourite movie and comic book characters.
Not only were cosplayers eager to volunteer their time, other parents began to post, asking how they too could receive video birthday wishes for their child.
"I created the group to bring together volunteers who wanted to donate their time and skills to film these shout-outs with the kids who were stuck with quarantine birthdays," said Puccio.
"Within a week, we had a thousand members. Today, we are closing in on three thousand members, and have completed hundreds of requests with hundreds more in the works."
Although the group began in Pennsylvania, it has reached Australia, the United Kingdom, France, and Canada. Including right here in London.
Chris Watson, of 'Bugs Life Cosplay', is one London cosplayer who saw what was happening and decided to join in the fun.
"With all of the conventions and shows being canceled this year, I figured it'd be a good way to keep the dust off the cosplays and to bring smiles to kids under lock down," Watson said.
Watson is accustomed to bringing smiles to people's faces through cosplay, but after so many weeks of physical distancing, he jumped at the chance to put his costume back on and step in front of a video camera.
In turn, Watson reached out to other local cosplayers who have joined the group and began making their own videos.
Londoner Geri Riedstra contacted the group to help celebrate her daughter Josie's fifth birthday.
"I thought it was just for birthday parades in the States, and I left it…but then my sister-in-law got a bunch of videos done for my nephew's sixth birthday last week…"
Riedstra goes on to say that she knows that her daughter will be over the moon watching the videos when the big day arrives.
Puccio couldn't be happier with how far the idea has gone.
"This offers a small bit of happiness for them and for the volunteers, who love to give back, she says."
Anyone interested in receiving a message is asked to give the group their child's first name, age, birthdate, and character request. The event is created and is monitored for appropriate content, making sure each recipient receives their shout-outs.
People coming together from all over the world during a pandemic. Finding the good in the bad, while challenging at times, is possible.