Shortly after the first reactions to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker appeared online, spoiler-hungry fans knew that the rumors were true. A subreddit dedicated to leaks and rumors about Star Wars movie filming assembled much of the plot of the film months ago. As per usual, fans were in denial about the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie leaks, thinking they were “terrible.” Of course, reading a half-remembered truth about a plot point is very different than seeing it play out on-screen. Yet, within hours fans raised hell on the subreddit and social media. Instead of complaining, one fan decided to start a fundraiser for Adam Driver’s non-profit, calling the campaign The Rise of Ben Solo. Going by the name “Matt the Radar Technician” on GoFundMe, the started the fundraiser and set a goal of $1,000.
It’s not a charity, exactly. Adam Driver served as a U.S. Marine. Once he left the service, he began the non-profit Arts In the Armed Forces. The group’s mission is to provide service members with the shared experience of theatrical performance. They also run contests to provide awards and a prize to active duty or veteran playwrights. This year, they hoped to raise around $30,000 to support their work. Seeing this, “Matt” wanted to help them get there as a way to say thanks to Driver for his portrayal of the last Skywalker.
The Rise of Ben Solo Fundraiser Was Inspired By “the Freefolk.”
2019 marked a big year for endings. Star Wars, the original cast of the Avengers wrapped up their run, and HBO’s first series set in Westeros. After the finale of the series, Game of Thrones fandom toxicity reached incredibly high levels, but some of their fans turned that energy into charitable giving. They raised money for charities sponsored by Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington. Still, the subreddit dedicated to Star Wars spoilers is just a small part of the fandom’s presence on the site. The person who set up the fundraiser never expected what would happen next. Over the next few days, fans shared the link and he kept pushing the campaign’s goal until it hit the amount that Arts in the Armed Forces hoped to raise for 2020. But the fans just kept donating.
At the time of this writing, The Rise of Ben Solo fundraiser collected $44,000 for Arts in the Armed Forces. This is more than $10,000 more than the group hoped to raise in all of 2020. While people sometimes have strong opinions about Star Wars, too often negativity leads their charge. They bicker on social media, hurling insults and masking their disappointment in the way the story went with anger. Yet, thanks to this clever Redditor, at least some of them were able to channel those feelings into something positive instead.
As “Matt” wrote:
“What can I say? I’m proud of this fandom. Just in time for the holidays, we managed to get together and do something special, wholesome, blessed, well, you get it. It has been a fascinating experience to watch this campaign blow up and the numbers go higher and higher.
“This is the way indeed. AITAF will surely put these funds to good use.”
We here at Comic Years really loved Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and we’re sorry if you didn’t. Nonetheless, if you can appreciate the total commitment and intense performance from Adam Driver, consider giving at the GoFundMe link. (Full disclosure: I donated a small amount to the cause, even though I thought the most recent film was pretty great.) If you liked the film or hated it, donating to Arts in the Armed Forces can bring a unique theater experience to soldiers, sailors, Airmen, and Marines.
Update: Fundraiser Closed with Over $90K in Donations
The fundraiser finally closed to new donations on January 21, 2020. When “Matt” shut it down, Star Wars and Adam Driver fans raised $90,374 for Arts in the Armed Forces. The group just got nearly three times the funding then they hoped to raise over the entire year. About halfway through the fundraiser, Adam Driver posted a video to Twitter thanking the fans.
A message from AITAF Founder Adam Driver pic.twitter.com/EFbSSSn2q0
— Arts in the Armed Forces (@AITAF) January 7, 2020
What do you think? Share your thoughts, reactions, or anything else in the comments below.
Featured image via GoFundMe
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.