(NewsCore) – His once sparkling white armor is dusty, weather-beaten and cracking; he has welts behind his knees and elbows and the skin on his stomach and back is rubbed raw.
But the stormtrooper keeps trudging, pushing his rickety three-wheeled trolley along the edge of Australia’s Eyre Highway, every step taking him closer to his goal of walking 3,100 miles (5,000km) from Perth to Sydney.
He may look like one of Darth Vadar’s henchmen, but this trooper is one of the good guys using his trek to fundraise for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, so far raising more than AU$45,000 (US$44,400).
Inside the costume is Jacob French, 21, from Bussleton, Western Australia, a sales rep and member of the 501st Legion enthusiasts who dress as “Star Wars” characters for good causes.
Trekking about 28 miles (45km) each day, French raises an armored hand to salute every vehicle that honks; amused truck drivers and curious tourists pull over for photos and then make a donation.
Originally expected to arrive in Sydney by Christmas, French is stopped so often that his trip has blown out by almost three months.
“Based on my original time frame I should be finishing up any day now, instead I’ve still got months to go and another 3,000km [1,860 miles] but it’s been worth it because the support keeps me going and I wanted to get the message out there,” French said.
In fact, he is expected to reach Kimba — the official “halfway point across Australia” — on Sunday. French has battled heavy thunderstorms, when his shoes and socks stayed wet for weeks, and sweltered under extreme 102F (39C) days where his armor was too hot to touch.
Under his suit he wears black “ladies tights” and a long-sleeved vest, which aren’t enough to stop the “armor kisses” where the skin is pinched behind his knees and elbows. On a shoe-string budget, he camps in rest areas off the highway, rolling out his swag and setting up his little cooker to make noodles, porridge or coffee.
He admits there have been times, out alone by the side of the road, when he stops to pull out his deckchair and munch on crackers and wonders why on earth he is doing this.
Particularly on his 21st birthday on November 12, when he was near the Nullarbor, suffering fly bites before a thunderstorm hit, and no phone reception to speak to his girlfriend, his parents or his five brothers and sisters.
“Coming across the Nullarbor, there was a week where I barely saw anyone and I’m trekking along in stormtrooper costume across the edge of the desert in 35-degree (95F) heat going, ‘I must be crazy to do this,’” he said. “Because there was no one else around to tell you otherwise, you start to believe it.”
But he says the people he has met and the amazing experiences have made the trip the time of his life.