’Star Wars’ garners big bucks for mentors

By Paul Glader, The Associated Press
Monday May 13, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — The premise of the latest Star Wars film doesn’t surprise Andy Mecca, president of the California Mentor Foundation. 

He has his own theory about why young Anakin Skywalker eventually becomes the evil Darth Vader: His mentor disappears. 

Debuting as a charity fund-raiser Sunday, “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” will rake in $400,000 for Mecca’s foundation and thousands more for charities that help children in 11 cities nationwide, including Boston, Chicago and Dallas. 

At the San Francisco event, nearly 800 people paid $500 a ticket to see the movie days before its opening Thursday. 

“Mentors are very important to the Jedi program,” said series creator George Lucas, referring to the order of knights portrayed in the films. 

He spoke before the San Francisco showing as characters such as storm troopers and a hairy Chewbacca paraded outside the theater. 

Lucas said his father and filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola had been his mentors. 

“I think mentoring is a very important part of bringing our youth into the future,” he said. “They need someone to help them through their formative years.” 

Mecca’s group provides grants for mentoring organizations throughout California. He said millions of children have no mentors, making them more likely to join gangs, have unwanted pregnancies or abuse drugs. 

Mecca said he believes the story of Anakin — a poor young slave boy with high ambitions and a single mother — will resonate with 150 at-risk youth in the San Francisco Bay Area who attended the special preview. 

Shahid Minapara, 14, of San Francisco, attended the showing with 11 others from a city youth group. 

”From what I hear, there are more relationships and love in this episode so I’m not sure it will be the best one,” he said. “But George Lucas sometimes has tricks up his sleeve, so we’ll see.”