“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Jedis, Wookiees, Vulcans, Tribbles, Hobbits, Orcs, Spartans, Cogs, Mutants, Freaks, and the like… In an attempt to express my admiration for all the things we’ve come to know and love, and subsequently take over the world, I bring you thenerdmachine.com … So, let’s start assembling the machine, rallying the troops, and marching toward our ultimate goal of proving once and for all that the geek shall inherit the earth. Love, Blessings, and Viva la Nerdolution.” Zachary Levi, The Nerd Machine
On my travels this year I went to San Diego Comic Con, which is the biggest pop culture event in the world. It is geek heaven and I’ll be writing more about that experience over the coming weeks. But the thing that has stayed with me, months after the event, is The Nerd Machine’s NERD HQ, a wonderful event that is held in San Diego but outside Comic Con proper.
There – in a beautiful welcoming space – a smile for us geeks results in smiles for numerous children who were born with facial deformities. The money raised at NERD HQ’s ‘Conversations for a Cause’ panels goes directly to the aptly named organisation, Operation Smile.
“Operation Smile mobilizes a world of generous hearts to heal children’s smiles and transform lives across the globe. Operation Smile’s network of volunteers works worldwide to repair childhood facial deformities including cleft lips and cleft palates.”
This was the sixth year that NERD HQ has set up its headquarters in downtown San Diego for the Comic Con weekend – and the amount of love and laughter I found there was phenomenal. It’s hard to explain why, but founder Zachary Levi and co-founder David Coleman have created such a brilliant environment: a place where the nerd community can hang out, get involved with exclusive gaming and tech activations, or attend the ‘Conversations’ that benefit Operation Smile.
I really wish there was some way to harvest that incredible sense of unison and the desire to do good that flows downwards from the organisers and volunteers to the guests and fans. So we could spread that immense love to the rest of the world [which certainly needs it right now].
I felt so lucky and so privileged to get tickets to three panels at this year’s NERD HQ. Lucky because they sell out like lightning. Privileged because these guests, who give up their time to support the cause, are people I genuinely admire and care about.
“The annual panel series has given fans unique opportunities to have sometimes surprising, intimate experiences with their favorite celebrities. Previous panels have played host to some of the biggest names in pop-culture like Joss Whedon, William Shatner, Tom Hiddleston, Tatiana Maslany, Nathan Fillion, Sophie Turner, Andrew Lincoln, Jeff Bridges, Seth Green, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Guillermo Del Toro, Vin Diesel, Kellan Lutz, Dylan O’Brien and Norman Reedus, just to name a few.”
On 30 September, at the 2016 Smile Gala, Zachary Levi and David Coleman were awarded a corporate humanitarian award for “their outstanding accomplishments raising money for Operation Smile and helping children throughout the world”. And this makes so happy.
My time at NERD HQ was incredibly joyous. I laughed until my sides hurt and tears were streaming down my face. I got to take photographs of some of my favourite people in the world. And I got to learn about the wonderful work of Operation Smile.
Here is a sampling of my photographs.
First up was ‘A Conversation with Jennifer Morrison’ – she’s such a sweetheart and has starred in a couple of my favourite shows in Once Upon A Time and House. It was great to see her and Zach Levi in this panel.
Have I mentioned yet, how much I adore Zach and all that he does with NERD HQ? Well, I do! ❤
The other two panels I saw were ‘A Conversation with the Cast of Supernatural’ and ‘A Conversation with Jared Padalecki’, which ended up being the cast of Supernatural! That is: Jared Padelecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard! ❤
There are always shenanigans when these guys get together. I have so much love for them!
And finally, a hilarious outtake from the Supernatural panel. This was one of the moments when I was in tears of laughter.
If you get the chance to support NERD HQ in the future, please do. It’s ace! ❤