Denver's D.C. Barns wins Star Wars: Force for Change contest -- and a role in Episode VII

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, Star Wars fan D.C. Barns decided to enter a contest that had as its grand prize a chance to be in the next installment of the Star Wars saga, Episode VII. And this week, Barns learned that in the longest of long shots, he'd won the grand prize: He'll be flown from Denver to London to perform a minor role in the film that JJ Abrams is directing.

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Star Wars: Force for Change is a new initiative dedicated to finding creative solutions to the world's biggest problems, as Abrams explained in a video announcing the contest. Force for Change teamed up with Omaze, a site that partners with organizations to raise money and awareness for charities, on this first campaign to support UNICEF Innovation Labs and Programs. Both Lucasfilm and Disney are backing the project; Disney committed a million bucks to the first campaign.

The contest worked like a raffle: An entry was $10, and the more you donated, the more entries you got. Higher levels of donations also came with cool Star Wars merchandise, from T-shirts and posters to limited edition figurines and rare collectibles. Donors were treated to electronic Star Wars badges e-mailed to them each week and videos from JJ Abrams with teasers from the Star Wars film set. Throughout the contest, fans could continue to donate and improve their chances of winning smaller prizes, including a mystery crate from inside the Lucasfilm vault and a private hometown screening of Episode VII for the fan and twenty friends before the movie hits theaters in December 2015.

The ultimate prize, of course, was a chance to be in Episode VII -- and D. C. Barns won. On August 11, the Star Wars team surprised the lucky fan with the news during a video interview. Asked for his favorite Star Wars moment, the excited Barns replied, "To answer your question, this is probably my favorite!"

The contest raised more than $5 million for UNICEF Innovation Labs. Here's the interview with Barns:

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