June 18, 2018
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R2D2 charms Bangor Mall shoppers at Toys for Tots benefit

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Leia Lovell was named for Princess Leia, the character in “Star Wars” who places an urgent plea for help in the memory of a droid.

But the 2-year-old Brewer girl was about as excited Saturday afternoon to meet R2D2 at the Bangor Mall as Princess Leia was to meet Han Solo for the first time.

“She’s a little shy,” her mother Dustin Lovell said as the girl warily eyed the droid.

Leia Lovell was willing to stand near the R2D2 replica created by Paul Bussiere of Orrington but refused her mother’s urgings to kiss the droid despite his beeps and chirps.

Bussiere built the replica himself from plans made available by George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars.” Bussiere appears with R2D2 at 10 to 20 charity events a year. The two were at the mall for two hours Saturday to support the Toys for Tots Foundation. People who donated a toy or cash were able to pose with the famous droid.

Toys for Tots is run by the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve. Its mission is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted, according to information on its website.

Amanda Rideout of Milo coordinated the program in Greater Bangor this year. She said there has been a higher demand for toys this season than in the past. Rideout predicted that between $30,000 and $40,000 worth of toys would be distributed in the area.

“We work with the Salvation Army and some small town officials who are aware of families in need in their areas to get the names of the children we distribute toys to,” she said.

Rideout said that Toys for Tots depends on members of high school and college ROTC programs to work at collection tables in the Bangor Mall and other sites. Members of the Brewer High School Air Force Junior ROTC program were at the mall Saturday.

“We support the Marine Corps in this endeavor,” said Retired Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Campbell, who leads the Brewer program. “Folks are giving this season. One man gave the last ten cents out his pocket. That’s giving 100 percent.”

In addition to children and families, individuals who grew up anxiously waiting for the next “Star Wars” film to be released posed with R2D2.

Ken Van Wormer of Brewer was three when “Star Wars” was released in 1977. Van Wormer handed his cell phone to Bussiere so he could snap a picture.

“This is going on my Facebook page and I’m sending it to all my friends,” he said Saturday. “This is my birthday gift to me.”

Van Wormer turns 39 on Sunday.

“Last year, for Christmas, my wife got me and R2D2 alarm clock,” he said.

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