TJ is a member of our Central Florida branch and is one of the original founders of Costumers With A Cause. TJ’s big heart is always visible when you see him with the kids. He understands the goals and mission of CWC.
A short little Bio: TJ McDonnell 39 years old Likes: Cause-play, pizza, exercise, ninjas, the Wilhelm Scream, roof-top jogs at night. Dislikes: Toxic people, India food, car troubles, ninjas, having to sleep.
And now…on to our questions to allow YOU to get to know a little more about what makes TJ special to us!
1. How did you first get into Cosplay/Costuming and what had you sticking with it?
Halloween was always my favorite holiday. I was always excited to dress up. When I was 17 my mother introduced me to a friend of hers that was a professional seamstress and I commissioned her to make me a Robin costume. I wore it to a church Halloween function and was asked to talk to the cub scout troop that meet later in the week at that church about physical fitness, safe trick-or-treating, and citizenship. I was hooked. I did as much as I could for the local hospitals, comic book stores, libraries, and churches as I could for the next few years. When I was 21 I made my first costume. Nightwing. I coordinated a visit to a local Boys and Girls club to give children in low-income neighborhoods a fun Halloween. With a mix of McGruff the Crime Dog, the presidential fitness program, lots of candy, and a background in kung fu and gymnastics it all came together. Using something that brought me joy to bring those in need hope is the greatest reason to dress up in my opinion.
2. If you could be ANY superhero already created or one you made up yourself, who would you be, why, and what would you accomplish with your powers?
Superman. He’s one of the most recognizable symbols of hope the world has ever known. Superman is a totem of all the best qualities humanity has amassed over thousands of years. I would do all I could to bring hope and peace to the world. I would lead by example.
3. Thinking back to all the charity events you have been a part of, name one that really sticks out in your head and what makes that one the most special to you (not a question, but hey…)
It was the summer of 2006. I was dressing as Superman and I was contacted by a family of a friend. Unfortunately, the family’s three year old son, Justin, was dying from cancer. I got to visit him in a children’s hospital. We talked, colored, and just hung out. I gave him my personal, green Kryptonian crystal replica as I told him the story of how “…it called to me.”. A couple weeks later and I got the call that Justin was moved to a hospice and time was running out. I got to visit him one last time. He was so pumped full of pain killers that he was barely able to keep his eyes open. So I just sat with him. Holding his hand and praying. His parents told me that he never let go of the crystal prop. That he slept with it like some children slept with teddy bears. When I had to leave, Justin’s father walked me out and let me know how much it meant to them that I was there. I held Justin’s dad as he cried into the spandex “S” on my chest. Being there for Justin and his parents meant the world to me. There where no photographers. No big groups. No social media exposure. Just Justin and (as far as he knew) Superman. Quietly holding hands.
4. If you could accomplish ANYTHING without having to worry about failure or what others thought of you, what would you accomplish and why?
Owning and operating my own not-for-profit, costumed character children’s charity.
5. What is one thing you have always wanted to do, or one place you have always wanted to go but haven’t done it or gone there …yet?
Travel the world learning.
6. Are there any special causes or charities that you hold close to your heart or that special meaning to you? If so, what and if you care to answer, why?
BASE Camp for children with cancer out of Orlando and Faces of Courage for children with cancer out of Tampa. I love what they do. They are local, grass-roots organizations doing all they can to help children dying of cancer. I believe every child deserves a happy childhood.
7. What would you say the best thing that has ever happened you to has been?
I’ve had a very blessed life, filled with amazing adventures. But marrying my soulmate and best friend is the best thing that has ever happened to me. The story of how we met could give How I Met Your Mother a run for it’s money.
8. What is your favorite character or superhero?
It doesn’t need to be one you cosplay, what is it that makes them your favorite or why are they special to you? That’s a tough one. I have so many favorites that I break them down into categories. But after all is said and done, Superman is my favorite. But Daredevil is the character I most identify with. My favorite cosplay character is Spiderman. Superman, Batman, Iron Man are all cool. But “Spidey” can get down on the child’s level, joke around and still be inspirational. I think that character can connect with children in need better than any other major cosplay character.
9. Other than CWC, what other hobbies or interests do you have?
Archery, martial arts, theatrical combat choreography and stunt work, physical fitness, puzzles, riddles, and mysteries.
10.Pick one of the two: What was the worst and best phases of your life or What is something people always misunderstand about you?
I think people always think I enjoy being the center of attention. I do not. I did when I was younger. But the older I get the more I want to be a tangential character. I enjoy planning and organizing events. “I love it when a plan comes together.” But I try to avoid being in the spot light. “I’m real when I need to be.”
Thank you TJ for being a valued member with CWC! It is because of volunteers like you that we are able to do all the things we have done, and will continue to do in the future!
Here are a few more pics of TJ in action:
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