Chewbaccas for Charity

A group of nearly forty vintage toy collectors gathered in Pawling to benefit a worthy cause on Saturday, September 1. Members of the Empire State Star Wars Collectors Club met at the Imperial Castle Toy Shop to discuss their shared passion for collecting and donated hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise to the Toys for Tots charity run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Members of the Empire State Star Wars Collectors Club primarily discuss their passion for vintage Star Wars collecting in online forums, with members meeting in person during conventions and special events like the recent gathering at the Imperial Castle. “We’re an unorganized group of friends from all over the world,” said Mike Ritter, one of the group members who helped host the event. “We have over two hundred members. That includes doctors, lawyers, photographers – really, people from all walks of life.” Membership in the group also extends internationally, including collectors from Australia, Singapore, Peru, Mexico, and Canada.

Imperial Castle Owner John Ragusa added: “I got to mingle with collectors from all over the world. We shared stories, hugs, and got to meet beyond the boundaries of social media.”

Knowing that the club would be making the trip to his store, Ragusa saw an opportunity to benefit a charitable cause. The Imperial Castle received two gift certificates from the Action Figure Authority, a toy grading and authentication company, which were raffled off along with an artist’s proof of an iconic Star Wars Boba Fett bounty hunter print. In addition, group members purchased numerous toys to be donated. By the end of the evening, a table was piled high with Disney Descendents dolls, Pop! Bobbleheads, Shimmer Shines, Smashers, and, of course, plenty of Star Wars action figures. In total, the event was a success, with a large box filled for Toys for Tots that will be distributed to children in need during the upcoming holiday season. “It’s a night I’ll always remember,” said Ragusa. “Nights like this remind small business owners why they’re following their dreams.”