KATIE'S FORCE LIVES ON
A shared love of Star Wars between an Alumni wish child and her father
results in a special project, and a stellar tribute.
“The mission in life is to celebrate and take from it what you can…”– Albin Johnson, explaining how a very sad period of his family’s life has led to an exciting – and fitting – honor for his late daughter, Katie. A one-of-a-kind droid inspired by her is making its debut in the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” opening at midnight tonight.
On the eve of the premiere, we’d like to share the out-of-this-world story about a remarkable little girl who left an indelible mark on Give Kids The World Village.
Katie’s father, Albin, is Legion Commanding Officer of The 501st Legion, an organization that promotes interest in “Star Wars” cosplay and charity work around the world. Albin shared his love of “Star Wars” with Katie. After the little girl was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, the family sought comfort in their church. It was there that Albin noticed a window uncannily shaped like an R2 unit from the movies. This sparked an idea: he would build for Katie a guardian angel of galactic proportions - a droid of her very own.
The R2 Builders Group, a “Star Wars” fan club specializing in building replica robots, gathered a constellation of talented volunteers to build the droid. In the meantime, Katie was given a temporary R2. It was painted pink and named R2-KT at the suggestion of her older sister, Allie. In the same way that R2-D2 watched over Padme in Star Wars Episode II, R2-KT watched over Katie every night.
The R2 Builders worked quickly and diligently on the project, donating their time, skills and funds. They also reached out to other “Star Wars” enthusiasts, who donated parts and money for R2-KT’s completion. Sadly, Katie passed away on August 9, 2005, before the final version of the R2-KT unit was complete. However, R2-KT wasn’t built in vain - the custom R2 unit now serves as Albin’s travel companion, accompanying him at The 501st Legion’s events all across the country.
A Stellar Tribute
Katie left a lasting impression on everyone she encountered at Give Kids The World Village, so much so that she inspired us to name one of the Village’s venues, “Katie’s Kitchen,” after her.
Albin said when the family was going through the struggle of battling her illness, they felt like they were out to sea and a violent storm was raging around them. When they arrived at the Village, though, and were surrounded by love and care, “we felt like we were on an island.”
Katie’s story also had an enormous impact on the “Star Wars” community, including Lucasfilm, which approached Albin about celebrating Katie’s life and legacy by giving R2-KT a cameo in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
“We think this is a beautiful tribute. The R2-KT character is a lot like her. She was a forward, temperamental child. She loved life and had a lot of sass to her,” Albin said, fondly. “This is the best way to remember Katie.”
The Johnson Family announced recently the amazing news that R2-KT would appear in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on their website.
Albin says he hopes the spotlight on this unique droid and the attention being paid to Katie’s story will open up discussions about pediatric care of the type that Katie needed.
“Before she passed away, she was afraid that no one would remember her,” he says. “Now everyone will remember my daughter. It’s nice to know that Katie will have an impact on other people’s lives.”
To continue the mission to spread awareness of pediatric illnesses and of the Village, “a place that she considered a second home,” 501st Legion has debuted a mission patch featuring R2-KT. 22
All mission patch sales will benefit Give Kids The World Village, where Katie and her family created precious, priceless memories.
And get your mission patch and find out more about R2-KT and Katie’s story at www.r2kt.com.