Cosplayers in the province have turned out in droves to the rescue of first responders in need of protective gear. The Alberta Ghostbusters have turned on their 3D printers and sewing machines and have started cranking out ear savers for face masks and scrub caps for hospitals and other health agencies.
Active for the last decade, the registered non-profit group is a collection of pop culture lovers who dress up as Ghostbusters – with homemade proton packs and other paranormal accoutrements – as a way of raising money for the Stollery Children's Hospital and the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. What started as a handful of eager fans is now up to more than 30 overly enthusiastic Venkman, Spengler, Stantz and Zeddemore wannabes, with a few Gilberts, Holtzmanns, Yateses and Tolans in there for good measure.
They raised $12,000 last year alone through their appearances at comic expos and selling Ghostbusters merchandise, among other activities.
“Obviously, with this little incident going on, we had to shift gears a little bit. We're all prop makers so that's where the medical supplies came in,” said Dustin Milne, events director with the organization.
They have since turned all of their energies into a grassroots health care support squad, one that also has the fervent enthusiasm of the members of the 501st Legion, a similar cosplaying group of Star Wars fans.
“A lot of us are hobbyist prop makers. We'll make Star Wars blasters or Ghostbuster wands or whatever. We have the skill set to do it. I think the the one really good thing about our group is we have such a variety of people from heavy duty mechanics to chefs to scientists, you name it,” Milne added.
“When a situation like what's going on right now comes along, everybody can lend in something.”
The crew has fired up their small armada of 3D printers and sewing machines and gotten hard at work making some helpful pieces of equipment. They are printing out thin pieces of plastic that they call ‘ear savers’ that hook with people’s face masks across the backs of their heads instead of wrapping over their ears.
The Ghostbusters are great fans of frontline health care providers and have seen how raw and abraded the skin of ears can get after wearing masks for 12 hours or more.
They’ve already been inundated with orders for hundreds of these items and are working out providing clear plastic face shields as well.
“A bunch of us have either significant others or friends that are working In healthcare, so we saw how red and cut their ears are getting from wearing these things for 12 hours.
Their production schedule also includes surgical scrub caps and clear plastic face shields. The scrub caps were designed in consultation with frontline health care staff and often feature cartoon-printed fabric, as per the pop culture fascinations of the makers. They have indeed proven to be hot commodities.
“One of our members came up with the pattern and and now we just have a whole bunch of costume makers sewing things. It definitely got legs in a hurry.”
A delivery was on its way to the Sturgeon Community Hospital as of this writing.
“That's what we're here for. People are applauding what we're doing and we're throwing it right back saying, ‘Hey, we're just trying to support the real heroes of this’ because the health care workers are going to be the ones that get us out of the situation,” Milne stated.
He mentioned that the public can help them help the helpers through various methods on their website. There’s a GoFundMe link if you want to make a financial donation and a contact form if you want to donate fabric or filament for the 3D printers. There’s also a contact if you wish to request items.