A LONG time ago, in a cinema far away from Lismore, three-year-old Ben Gordon watched Star Wars for the first time with his parents, John and Vicky.
But little did he know that 32 years after his introduction to the blockbuster sci-fi series, he would be wearing a $1500 Lucas film-endorsed Stormtrooper costume most weekends, putting smiles on the faces of fans young and old while raising money for charity.
When he first met members of the Queensland "Redbacks" chapter of the 501st Legion at the Gold Coast Supanova (pop culture exhibition) in 2012, Mr Gordon said he was hooked.
"I thought, 'Wow, there's a group of guys who've got some awesome Star Wars costumes,' " he said.
"The next year we went to Supanova again and I got talking to one of the guys and that's when I found out not only do they have awesome Star Wars costumes but they do work for charity.
"That was the tipping point for me, where it went from, 'Wow, that's really cool' to 'That's something I definitely want to do.' "
In November 2013, after serving six months as a cadet, Mr Gordon was given the name "ratchet" by the 501st Legion Southern Cross Garrison SCG and his legion ID, TK15378.
Since joining the 501st Legion SCG, Mr Gordon, who is the manager of Woolworths at Goonellabah, said he had made friends with many like-minded fans around Australia at events and through online forums.
Dressing up in Star Wars costumes and raising money for charity has become a family affair for the Gordons, with Ben's wife, Christie-Lee, also a member of the 501st Legion, while his two sons enjoy being part of the Galactic Academy.
"Some of the charities that we do some major work with are the Starlight Foundation, Smart Pups and the Make-A-Wish Foundation," he said.
"We are hoping to generate some more interest and get some more local members so we can attend more local events."
"Ratchet's" next appearances will be at the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Chopper Day on August 1 and Casino Truck Show on August 23.
Strike back and join the galaxy:
STAR WARS fans interested in raising money for charity have the option of joining the 501st Garrison (bad guys), The Rebel Legion (good guys) or the Galactic Academy - for fans under 18.
For more information visit www.501scg.com, www.rebellegion.com or www.galatic-academy.com.
The 501st Legion SCG, The Rebel Legion and the Galactic Academy also have Facebook pages with information and photos of events.