In November of 2010, the international community of Star Wars fans rallied to defend my first-grade daughter Katie, who was being taunted by the boys at school because she was a girl who loved Star Wars, which was apparently “only for boys.” The support was instant and effusive, and Katie quickly regained her confidence as a Star-Wars-loving female. Some of the most vocal supporters came from the 501st Legion, a charitable organization that raises millions of dollars for charity. The members of the 501st each build intricate Star Wars costumes that are exact replicas of those worn by characters in the Star Wars movies.
And then, in September of 2012, nearly two years later, we came full circle, and it was our turn to stand up for the 501st Legion. The Star Wars fans as a group were hurt and outraged when they became the target of a taunting online slideshow featured on news websites. The slideshow featured pictures of people in costume attending Star Wars Celebration VI, a biennial convention. The captions were cruel, and many of the people in the photos were members of the 501st Legion. Katie and I were able to offer our support and encouragement to the very people who had been so kind to us. The Star Wars community is like that – we have each other’s backs.
In the wake of the September cyberbullying incident, Katie decided that she wanted to be a Stormtrooper for Halloween this year. This was how she could show her solidarity with the 501st Legion. I wanted to find her a costume that was a little more authentic than what the stores were offering, and I knew who to ask.
In August, Katie and I had met some members of the 501st Legion at the launch of my new book about bullying. Katie, who had been dubbed The Littlest Jedi when her story went viral, had a grand time that night romping around Barnes & Noble with professionally-costumed Star Wars characters. Remembering how kind everyone had been, I sent a message to one of the guys, asking if he had any suggestions for how we could make Katie a Stormtrooper costume.
What transpired next is nothing short of astonishing.
The 501st decided to make Katie her own set of custom Stormtrooper armor, built to the exact specifications from the original Star Wars movies in the ‘70’s. Two years ago, Katie became an unexpected symbol of geek pride and anti-bullying. Her story touched something deep in the core of the 501st — a desire to always stand up for what you believe in –and based on those strong feelings, the members of the 501st wanted to make her a Halloween costume that no other child could replicate. Katie would become a Stormtrooper, as if she had stepped onto the set of a LucasFilm movie.