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Here’s How Star Wars Decided To Honour A Young Fan’s Memory In The Force Awakens

When you finally sit down in the theater to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens, keep your eye out for a little astromech droid that resembles R2-D2. That’s R2-KT, and the story behind her creation will probably bring a tear to your eye.

Back in 2004, Albin Johnson, the founder of an all-volunteer organization of Stormtrooper costume enthusiasts called the 501st legion, learned that his four-year-old daughter Katie was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. His family reached out to a group of R2-D2 builders to create a custom droid to watch over her, painted in her favourite color: pink.

Since Katie’s tragic death in 2005, the R2-KT unit has continued to carry on her memory by traveling to children’s hospitals, Toys for Tots drives, and comic book conventions all over the country to raise money for various charities. In 2007, Hasbro auctioned off a special custom action figure of the droid for the Make-A-Wish foundation, and she’s also appeared in several animated Lucasfilm productions, including The Clone Wars (where she was technically billed as “QT-KT” and given a tiny design change, so audiences wouldn’t be confused by her similarity to R2-D2) and LEGO Star Wars.

Now the droid is officially making her big screen live action debut in Star Wars: The Force Awakens according to Johnson, who confirmed her involvement over the weekend via Twitter.

Johnson told MTV News via a press statement that in late 2014, Lucasfilm reached out to the family with an idea to include R2-KT in the new movie.

“The Fan Relations team at Lucasfilm was kind enough to request a press kit for a presentation to Kathleen Kennedy,” he said. “Six months later we were told to have R2-KT ready for shipping to London! There were repairs to be made to R2-KT but thanks to the R2 Builders club, the club that originally built R2-KT for our late daughter Katie, we had the droid shipped off in time to be there for shooting The Force Awakens.”

“Only recently were we notified that R2-KT was confirmed to be in the final cut for the film. We were told her appearance would be brief and in the background, with no details as to the scene or situation she will be in,” the statement continued. “But this is an amazing tribute to Star Wars fans everywhere and a true confirmation of J.J. Abrams’ commitment to honor the fans. The family is so proud of the legacy that Katie has had among fans and the popularity of R2-KT. We are hoping this will help R2-KT’s mission to raise funds for charity, raise awareness of pediatric illnesses, and spread the magic of Star Wars!”

To learn more about R2-KT and her charity work, you can check out their website or search the hashtag #R2KT on Twitter—and be sure to keep your eyes peeled when The Force Awakens arrives!