Sunday, 8 December 2013

Collection for Dreamflight at the Trafford Centre, Manchester, 7th December, 2013.

The Bandstand - before the madness!
The 99th Garrison now has what seems to be a regular slot on one of the early Saturdays in December every year to collect in the Trafford centre and for the past few years this has been for Dreamflight.  If you follow my blog you should really know by now what Dreamflight is all about but if not, then .... .... ..... where have you been??!!  You need to check out and catch up with the ride asap!
I bet he would still miss if he aimed at one those reindeer from there!  Even with his big weapon!
This event was our last one of the year for us before Christmas and is usually one of our biggest and this year was no exception.  On arrival at the venue I went to the bandstand in the Orient as agreed for 09:00am and found it to be empty.  I needn't have worried though as it turns out that I was one of the last to arrive and everyone else was already in the management centre meeting room [our base for the day] chatting and getting ready to get ready!
The really busy changing room.
I also had an idea last week that to save everyone de-kitting at lunch time and fighting through the crowds and queues at lunch time for some food, we could do a fuddle instead.  Now, let me explain, "fuddle" is not a word that I had ever heard of before I moved to live and work in Derbyshire, but round these parts, it is used to describe a buffet where everyone brings something different to the table so that you end up with an interesting and varied spread for all. I put this to members of the 99th who were to attend this event and they all took it on board...... after some explaining of the word "fuddle" and not as one member who shall remain nameless said "fluffle"!!!!  So we also had quite a lot of food to keep us going!
The Orient
As were in the management centre's very well equipped meeting room for the day I also brought with me my copy of the Pirate Group's DVD of last year's trip so that members could actually see where and how the money that they help to raise is spent and that was left playing on a large screen in the background as members got themselves ready.
With Sharon and Vicki
I was doing Memah for this event so it was off to the ladies for me to get myself ready.  This was the first time I had done Memah since early this year as I had not been able to wear her sandals due to the surgery I had on my feet in March and September and as a result, it took me longer to get ready and at one point, even with the help of Pat, I could not remember how the dress and skirt attachment went together, but we got there in the end even if it did mean I was last out!! Most unusual for me!!
Hug a tree?
Once we were all out, we went to the Centre's very grand entrance near to the Orient where they have a very posh stair case and posed for a few group photos before the centre got busy.  We still caught the attention though of the early shoppers including two families who asked Lord Vader to hold their very young babies for a photo, both of whom cried as soon as they were placed in his arms.
The most of us in costume at one event for ages!
We were also joined by Kevin and Nicola and Debs.  Kevin is a nurse in the Dreamflight Dolphin group and was on the trip in my first year in 2009 and looked after me, making sure that I did not get too stressed out ....... the first time you do Dreamflight it can be overwhelming! Debs was a member of this year's Pirate Group.  We were also joined by Graham Park who is the husband of one the escorts from the Pirate Group that I did the trip with in 2012. He has also set up an official Manchester based fundraising group for Dreamflight.
Game of Thrones??!!
We then headed back to the bandstand area and then half of us went off to troop around the malls...... now this was a big thing for us as when we first started to troop at the Trafford Centre they were very strict about where we could go and it has taken probably about four years to get to this point where we were told that so long as we didn't cause an obstruction, we could troop around the centre. With this being my first troop in high heels and with the Trafford centre floor being very unforgiving on feet, I decided to stay at the bandstand area and collect there.
The three ?????
On our way back to the bandstand though I saw Chris and his mum.  Chris was one of the boys I looked after on the Dreamflight trip to Florida 2012.... I knew that they were going to be there to help us out on the day but it was so lovely to see them I practically ran to give them a hug!  We then met up with Chris' dad as well and his two sisters and once the greetings were over it was work time with Chris with a collection pot in hand,  He was one of our top collectors at the same event last year and had his reputation to keep up.  Safe to say though that his collection pot was one of the heaviest!!
I'm leaning on a lampost of the corner of a street waiting for a certain little Ewok to go by!
The centre was quiet in the morning but soon got busy with Christmas shoppers.  The troopers who had gone off to the malls had to come back as it was just too busy and having finally got permission to troop anywhere in the centre, we decided that we would stay around the bandstand area in the afternoon.
Add caption
Lunch was good fun with everyone tucking into the fuddle, we had sandwiches, cakes, scones, fruit, quiches, crisps, biscuits, chocolates, sausage rolls, pork pies etc etc and soft drinks and there was more than enough to fill us all twice!!
Justine [Chris' mum and the maker of the THE most delicious Brownies ever!]
After lunch it was back to the bandstand and to a very busy centre!  As the afternoon wore on though my feet got more and more painful and I occasionally had to sit down on the bandstand's steps.  This worked quite well though with children coming to sit next to me to have their photo taken.  I also had a couple of little boys who just wanted to sit down and chat about Star Wars with me.  The knowledge that they have about Star Wars far exceeds mine and some of the time I just had to smile sweetly and agree with what they were saying.
One of the crying babies
There was another little boy, who when I was stood up, came running towards me and threw himself at me, wrapping his arms around me and hugging hard but also, when he landed, he landed with his feet on my toe that had been operated on in September.... ouch!!! It was well worth it though for such an affectionate hug.
Resting my feet
By 3:30pm my feet could take no more and I did the by now what seemed like a long and painful walk back to the changing room to de-kit/de-blue which meant going back into the ladies.  When I came out at about 4:00pm everyone else had called it a day too.  We then spent some time trying to get the room back to how we found it and sorting out the rubbish and left over food and of course, posing for the obligatory post troop photo..... back at the bandstand!

We then loaded our gear up into our cars before meeting back at the bandstand and then going for a quick festive drink before leaving and saying our festive goodbyes for the year!
We raised  £927.60 on the day.  Thank you all so much!!!
A huge festive thanks to Graham, Nicola, Kevin and Debs from Dreamflight.  Also [from the 99th] to Chris E, Chris S, Scott, Ken, Dave [Scampi], Grant, Wayne, John, Paul, Darran, Dave A, Andy, Craig, Jim, Alan, Darren, Gary and Gervais. And to super crew Dave P, Pete, Sharon, Darrell, Vicki, Emma, Joanne and Jason.
Don't bring that Ewok any closer!!
Big thanks to Chris and his mum and family too!! Thank you for my Brownies!!  Yum yum yum!!
And not forgetting Alison and the centre management staff :-)  

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

99th Garrison collects for Dreamflight at John Lewis, Trafford Centre, Manchester - Sunday, 24th November, 2013.

The view that met the keen shoppers as the shutters slowly rose to reveal us waiting for them.
Through some excellent networking that one of our members did [Gary Davies… no relation!] the 99th Garrison was asked to help promote John Lewis at its Trafford Centre Branch and the 24th November, 2013 was the chosen day.  In return we were allowed to collect for Dreamflight see.
The full team with our fab crew, Pat, Dave, Rachel and Rachel!
As the 24th November, was a Sunday, this meant that the store did not open until 11:30am and meant that we therefore did not need to be at the venue until 10:30am.
Not quite Lord Vader's size or colour!
On arrival at the store we had to head to its reception and then go through the rather large staff canteen to a training room which was to be our base for the day.  Joining me today was Gary and Rachel, John and Pat, Jim, Chris, Dave A, Dave P, Dave S and Rachel, Alan.
A member of our super Crew Team - Rachel.
As the store was ready to open until 11.30am we were ready in armour and stood behind the shop’s main shutters at 11:25 waiting for them to go up.  This was strange as we could here the “buzz” of the shoppers outside eagerly waiting to get into the shop to start their Christmas shopping but we knew that they were in for a shock when they saw us, lined up waiting for them!
Love this Christmas looking photo of Boba Fett
As expected the shutters went up and slowly we were revealed to the waiting shoppers from the feet up! There were lots of giggles and gasps and then the camera phones came out for a couple of minutes before we decided to move them along” at which a large majority of them also dropped coins into our collection buckets.
Arresting Father Christmas!
We had our own area in the Furniture Department of the store where our very own backdrop of a Death Star wall had been set up…. Constructed by own members!  We spent some of the day stood by this posing for photos and some of the time mingling with shoppers in the store.  This included photos with Father Christmas and many children, some of whom were more excited to see us than him!
Admiring the Centre's Christmas lights as the evening set in.
We also had one teenage girl come to see us who was all embarrassed about having a photo taken with us, but when her friend told us that it was her birthday I started off singing Happy Birthday to her and the other troopers who were also there at that point then joined in too… Happy Birthday Danielle!
With birthday girl - Danielle.
We stopped for lunch at about 1:00pm and were able to use the Staff Canteen. This was subsidised and I got a chicken korma and poppadom for £1.50!  Its not often we get to eat so cheaply on troops! Lord Vader was so hungry he had two dinners and a bar of chocolate!  Boba Fett was very healthy with his Roast Beef, Roast Potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding and not one of his five-a-day in sight!  Dave A had a full roast beef dinner stood up as he had not de-kitted for lunch and stormtroopers cannot sit down!
Resting my feet on a bar stool that cost £335!!!  It was sprung though :-)
We trooped again from 2:00pm until 4:00pm and were fairly busy/steady.  Even the Furniture department had a bit of a higher footfall than normal as people came to see us when our presence there was announced on the store’s Tannoy system.  We collected £517.00 and John Lewis also made a donation of £100.00..........for Dreamflight !  Thank you All!!

Once we de-kitted and I had dropped my armour back into my car, I returned to the store as I had seen a couple of ideal Christmas presents whilst we had been walking around.  Also bumped into Rachel and Dave S in there and then had a very pleasant cuppa in Starbucks before setting off back home where I arrived at about 7:30pm remembering that it was actually Sunday and not Saturday and that I had work the following morning!
Its hard work for our crew you know isn't it Dave?!!
A huge thanks to all the troopers listed above and Dave, Rachel and Pat for crewing so well.  Also, a big thank you to John Lewis and Moira for inviting us into their store, making a donation and to Gary for making it happen!

The obligatory post troop photo!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

This spot was to become the one where we spent most of the weekend posing for photos.
The 99th Garrison collects for Help For Heroes at Meadowhall, Sheffield 9th AND 10th November, 2013.
This event has become another regular annual event for the 99th Garrison in November, which I now refer to as my military month!
We were based with Kevin Mitchell from Help For Heroes and his volunteers in a meeting room in the centre's management centre where we were also joined by their mascot bear.
On Saturday we trooped from about 10:40am and had to take regular breaks due to the heat in the centre and how busy we were but by the time of our lunch break we had raised approximately £349.00!!
No wonder they can never find the right droids!
After lunch we were even busier and hotter!  We were so busy that a member of our crew [Rachel] had to set up a queueing system for people who wanted their photo with us and we did this for hourly slots before having to go for breaks.
By the time we had finished trooping on Saturday and Kevin had used his wonderful machine to count the money in our collection buckets we had collected £792.49!! :-) 
A huge thanks to Dave S, Rachel, Dave P, Darren, Darran, Emma and Jim for a great result on Saturday!  
Saturday's post troop photo
On Sunday we were to be in armour for 10:45am in order to take part in the shopping centre's two minute silence at 11:am.  We joined Kevin and his volunteers in a line near to their main display with Kevin making sure that everyone was where they should be.  Then when the centre announced the silence at 11am we all bowed our heads in respect.  The whole shopping centre respected the silence and it was really quite overwhelming.  I was glad I had my helmet on.
Getting lined up ready for the 2 minute silence
After the two minute silence we stayed around Help For Heroes main display table for a while whilst the centre had not yet reached its busiest period and by the time of our lunch break we had raised approximately £330.00.
Just as we broke for lunch though we were asked to go and say "hello" and sing "happy birthday" to a little girl called Dylan Sky Walker.  This we did and I am pleased to say that all troopers sang in unison even if not completely in tune!
Singing Happy Birthday to Dylan Sky Walker
After lunch we returned to the main Help For Heroes display for a while and to say hello to and pay our respects to Ben Parkinson.  He spent a few hours at the centre and on his own raised over £700!!! :-)
With Ben Parkinson
The area around the main display then got too busy and congested for us to remain there without becoming an obstruction so we then retreated back to the Santa's Grotto area that we had used as a backdrop on Saturday and again, we were so busy that we had to have a queuing system in operation for photos.  We did this for about an hour at a time with breaks but could have probably carried on doing it until the centre shopped due to the demand that there was for us.
How many troopers can you fit into a lift?!
By the time we had finished trooping on Sunday we had collected £735.43..... making a total for both days of £1,527.92!!!!!!! A fantastic result!!! 
Two sandtroopers together = trouble! :-) 
Huge thanks go to Kevin and his volunteers, to the Centre management and security team and to Alan, Jim, Dave P, Dave S and Harrison, Darren W, Darran and Emma and Dave A.  It was hard work for all of us, especially as most of us had done three troops in four days but the result and love in the building was heart warming.
Sunday's post troop photo.

Friday, 8 November 2013

99th Garrison collects for the Walking With Giants Foundation - Thursday, 7th November, 2013

The 99th Garrison has attended the Christmas lights switch on at the Trafford Centre in Manchester for a number of years now and this is becoming one of our regular annual events. When we do so we always support the Walking With Giants Foundation.  This is a charity for children who suffer from Primoridal Dwarfism.  For more information see  We are also supported by our good friends at the Mint Imperials. This year's troop was extra special though as it was in memory of Matthew Litchfield - a little boy who was supported by the WWG and who sadly recently had passed away.
I'm leaning on a lampost on the corner of the street waiting for a certain little lady to go by...
This year was also a bit different though as we had arranged to visit John Lewis at lunch time who are also based in the Trafford Centre to discuss a collection we are doing there for Dreamflight on Sunday, 24th November, 2013.  They also asked for some of us to be in costume so having checked with the centre management whether this was ok, we duly visited John Lewis for coffee/tea in their staff canteen dressed in soft costumes only ie. no armour or helmets etc were allowed at this stage.  Having discussed what would happen and where on the 24th, we then left John Lewis for something to eat in the Trafford Centre food hall in the Orient.
The event was also a bit different due to the number of troopers involved, although all did not come for the lunch time visit to John Lewis, by the time that the troop was in full swing we had the following troopers/crew...... I had to do a register for this, so as not to forget anyone!   Joanne, Jason K, Vickie, Sandra, Wayne, Sarah, Andy W, Dave A, Mark, Jason F, Ric, Dave P, Chris E, Chris S, Craig, Jim, Neil, Tony, Alan, Paul, Pat, John, Stacey, Richard, Jenna, Ken, Andy W and Pete.
Sith Lady Callieach
Having had some lunch we then had a couple of hours to kill in the centre's staff training centre before we were due to troop at about 4:00pm.  Its amazin how quick time goes when troopers get together and have some catching up to do.... chatter, chatter, chatter!
Rebel thinks he can hide from us??!!
We then trooped from about 4:00pm until about 8:00pm.  The Trafford Centre got gradually busier and busier as people arrived for the celebrities that had been booked for the evening... apart from ourselves of course!  The other celebs included Brian McFadden, The Hoosiers, The Overtones and stars from Strictly Come Dancing.
We were also joined by Sue and John Connerty from WWG and their volunteers and new bear mascot as well.... who is as yet, unnamed.  Suggestions are being sought! :-)
Hugging WWG new bear mascot
We were kept fairly busy posing for photographs etc and were even filmed and interviewed at one point about the Garrison and the work that we do for various charities.  We also had restaurant managers asking us to pose in their restaurants with their menus etc... in return for a donation to WWG of course!
Boba Fett on TGI's Harley outside their restaurant with apetrooper causing trouble!
We also had a special appearance by Apetrooper towards the end of the troop who everyone seemed to enjoy and John Connerty thought was "brilliant"
It was safe to say that by the time that we finished trooping we were all very, very tired.  This was my first troop at the Trafford Centre since my operations on my feet and even though I wore Mara Jade, which meant I had flat boots on with no heels, and inserted gel inserts my feet were absolutely killing me! 

A huge thank you to all the troopers and crew listed above, for some of whom this was their first troop.  Also to Sue and John from WWG and the Alison Reid at the Trafford Centre and all their security staff for keeping an eye on us.  We raised £381.97 on the night.... well done all!!! :-)