Close-knit family donates 300 collectables to charity, social media plays a large role.


“The force is strong with this one” family when it came to the collecting of a whopping 9000 Countdown Star Wars character tokens and Disney Movie Star cards, which the Stowell’s donated to Ronald McDonald House and Starship on Friday 14th.

Moving to New Zealand around 3 and a half years ago from South Africa, Greg and Charmayne wanted to create a better life for their now 10-year-old son, Tristan, who they described as always being extremely friendly and kind-hearted.

Originally collecting tokens for himself, Star Wars fanatic Tristan, found his last character card, Rei, about a month ago. Having piles of leftover cards, he came up with the idea to donate the rest to children who couldn’t collect them themselves.

“Their parents won’t bother worrying about collecting the cards because they’re too busy worrying about their child’s health”, Tristan said.

Notes received from the community. Photo: Grace Ellis.

The family created a swap stand outside of Sunnynook Countdown, but it was on social media that people began to recognise the work that Tristan was doing. One lady bought a “hefty amount of cookies”, of which landed her a whole box of Star Wars collectables, approximately 500 tokens, which she donated to the cause. From there, the collecting really kicked off.

After posting on Neighbourly, the Sunnynook residents received an enormous amount of replies from the community wanting to donate their spare tokens and express their gratitude through notes and home visits.

Neighbourly, founded by Casey Eden and Shane Bradley and co-owned by Fairfax Media, started back in 2014 and has approximately 200,000 members nationwide as of September 2015. It acts as a way of connecting with your neighbours within the community in a secure environment.

A recent study by Mashable showed that of the 1,053 people analysed, 51% typically heard of initiatives to give back through social media sites. Charmayne noted that it wasn’t until they posted on Neighbourly that people really began to recognise them and the project. With word of mouth following at 12%, Neighbourly acted as the starting point of community talk, further spreading the word and donations.

mashable-charity-social-media-1Just 30 hours before the delivery deadline, the Stowell’s received stacks of boxes from past promotional Disney Movie Star albums. Through the utilisation of social media, people of the community helped complete a further 100 albums to donate. Charmayne said the project has been an eye-opener. The community coming together to help is something that she rarely saw back in their hometown of Pretoria.

The study also showed that in order for people to actually donate, they have to believe in the cause itself.

Greg stated that what made people happy to donate their cards was the fact that not everyone has the ability to think up doing something so benevolent, nor do they have the drive to actually sit down and tackle the task. The fact that Tristan was able to at such a young age is astounding.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-10-34-36-pm

Social media poll results show a clear agreement with the above statement. With 36 responses, 23 said that they believe people contribute to social good efforts because they believe in the cause.

After a month and a half of opening, sorting and assembling, the family went to Ronald McDonald house to hand over a total of 200 Star Wars albums and 106 Disney Movie Stars albums also.Taylor Foster (13), on her second temporary stay of the year at Ronald McDonald House, received a two Movie Star Albums and a Star Wars Album, of which she is passing onto her sister.

Tristan resembles his favourite Star Wars character, Yoda, in the way that he uses his powers for good. As Yoda says Episode II: “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is”. Tristan Stowell is no exception.

Tristan (left) and Taylor (right) stand with donated albums. Photo: Grace Ellis


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