At Anime Boston, fans give back

Photo: Kotarou Kagamine

Thousands of anime fans, cosplayers, and self-identified geeks will flock to the Hynes Convention Center this weekend for Anime Boston for events like autograph signings, cosplay contests, and special screenings, among others. To outsiders, the annual convention is probably best associated with its costumed participants who flood the Prudential Center, and many attendants themselves probably think about the dozens of panels, special guests, and unique merchandise they can find over the weekend.

However, Anime Boston, which grows in attendance each year, is also an opportunity for the fandom community to give back. Over the years, Anime Boston has raised tens of thousands of dollars for multiple sclerosis and con-goers have donated gallons of blood to the Red Cross.

Charity staffer Emily Weigert works the auction. Photo: Anime Boston

Charity staffer Emily Weigert works the auction. Photo: Anime Boston

From Saturday to Sunday, there will be three different events to raise money for the Central New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society: a weekend long raffle, a formal ball, and an auction. All the events feature a unique, Anime Boston take, and all proceeds go directly to the National MS Society.

“I think we do a lot of fun ways to make money for our charities—it’s not so cut and dry,” says Jenna Leary, the convention’s charity coordinator. While the partnership with the National MS Society predates her six year tenure, Leary is happy to take up the cause. “I have a friend that suffers from MS, so it’s important to me,” she says.

Multiple raffles will be held all day Saturday. “The raffle does really well,” says Leary. “It’s grown a lot in the last few years.” While ticket holders don’t need to be present when the raffle is called, many like to hang around for the drawing, and even get called up to help with the proceedings. “It’s even become its own tradition,” says Leary. Leary also added an online raffle that took place before the convention. The main prize was a “line cut” badge, which, as the name suggests, lets the owner cut any line for any panel. Since Boston hosts autograph sessions with prolific voice actors and premiers the English dubs of huge titles like Attack on Titan, it’s very common to see lines that are hundreds of people deep snaking throughout the Hynes’s long, wide hallways.

The formal charity ball takes place on Saturday evening, and raises money by charging $4 dollar tickets. While formal wear like tuxedos and gowns are required, cosplay is still very encouraged. “It gives people a good chance to be really creative,” says Leary. “So if you have a character that never appeared in anything formal on their show, you get to imagine what they would wear if they dressed formally.”

Finally, on Sunday it’s the three hour auction. “It’s a fun, live auction, it’s loud, it’s not serious at all,” says Leary. Last year her crew auctioned off an original sketch by one of the creators of Nickelodeon’s hit show Avatar: The Last Airbender. (“That was gorgeous,” says Leary.) This year they’ll auction off an original sketch by Stephen Universe creator Rebecca Sugar. Last year the auction raised $20,000 for National MS Society, and given the convention’s growth, another big haul may be in store.

In addition to the fundraising events, the Heinlein Society is organizing Anime Boston’s American Red Cross Blood Drive on Friday and Saturday in the Sheraton Hotel. Fittingly, the Heinlein Society is named after science fiction writer Robert Anson Heinlein—who popularized the phrase “Pay it forward” in his book Between Planets.

John Hodges is the blood drive coordinator, and as a volunteer of 40 years, he knows his way around a drive. And as part of the Heinlein Society, he’s also worked fan events like ReaderCon and the World Science Fiction Convention. This will be his sixth year working Anime Boston, and much like the charity events, donors can expect a fun, light-hearted, and colorful environment.

“The mood is very, very joyful,” says Hodges.

And this blood drive is also open to public—so if you can’t attend the convention or afford the ticket, you can still enter the Sheraton and donate blood. (The charity events are only open to convention goers who have purchased badges.) It can be a daunting task, but when you’re alongside people dressed up like the Sailor Scouts and the Avengers, you might feel a bit more heroic.

“It’s an extraordinary thing for anybody to consider,” says Hodges. “From my view, the best possible thing [we can] do for people who choose to spend their time this way… is make it possible for them to have a good time, to enjoy the experience, to feel thanked.”

So whether they’re attending the convention or just stopping by to stare at elaborate costumes and oversized foam weapons, Bostonians can take advantage of the weekend to support a cause.

“I welcome people who are curious, as well as those who fully intend to give blood” says Hodges. “I’m happy to answer any questions, whether from a donor perspective or a coordinator perspective.” Seeing as he’s donated over 53 ½ gallons of blood, he can certainly offer plenty of insight.

“I want people to have fun, but also feel like they’re helping out,” says Leary, “even if it’s just buying a one dollar raffle ticket.”

For more information on these events and the rest of the convention, visit animeboston.com. Anime Boston starts Friday, March 25, and ends Sunday March 27.

The blood drive, which is open to the public, takes place on Friday, March 25th from 2PM – 7PM and Saturday, March 26th from 10AM – 3PM in the Gardner, Hampton, and Exeter rooms of the Sheraton Hotel.

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