STORM troopers were not known for their charity in George Lucas’s Star Wars, but cross-country walker Jacob French is giving the agents of darkness a good name.
The 21-year-old passed through Bega last week, almost 5000km into his ground-breaking endeavour to walk from Perth to Sydney in full storm trooper armour, raising money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
He has raised $85,000 so far and hopes to be in Sydney on April 1.
Mr French’s passion for Star Wars comes as no surprise – he is a member of the worldwide fan club, the 501st Legion – but he said his journey was inspired by another Hollywood icon, Forrest Gump.
Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) has countless adventures in the film, including running across America.
“I love that film because I think he has a great attitude to life – if he wants to do something, he just does it,” Mr French said.
“And the storm trooper outfit was just to make it a bit more interesting for people driving past, rather than just seeing a sweaty bearded guy walking.
“The idea was to put the focus on fun and well as fundraising.”
Mr French, who worked in sales before setting out last July, has averaged 35km a day and slept either in his swag or at the homes of hospitable people he has met.
He planned to be in Sydney months ago, but has been (happily) delayed by the huge ground-swell of interest, with people stopping for a chat or photo opportunity “countless” times a day.
The outfit and his 17kg trolley have been constant talking points, but not without their discomforts.
On the long stretch from Esperance to Adelaide, across the Nullarbor Plain, he regularly endured temperatures in the mid-40s – much hotter inside the suit.
His night in Bega was spent in a youth hostel, before he set out early to tackle the hills and enjoy the greenery through his helmet.
However, now in his ninth month on the road, he said “everything hurts”.
“It’s been awesome, but I’m looking forward to finishing,” he said.
“I’m pretty sick of porridge and am really missing regular power and hot showers.”
Mr French will be given a hero’s welcome when he arrives at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick, where he will be joined by fellow members of the Australian 501st legion.
The party is sure to be inter-galactic.