Pink droid R2-KT is not just a movie star but a beacon of hope
Mr Albin Johnson may have gained worldwide recognition as the founder of the 501st Legion, the international Star Wars costuming and charity organisation that specialises in characters, most commonly Stormtroopers, from the film franchise.
But whenever he appears at Star Wars conventions, it is his sidekick that is much more popular than he is.
Dubbed R2-KT, the pink astromech droid that has fans queuing up to hug it is named after his late daughter Katie, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in 2004.
Mr Johnson had it commissioned to keep her company, just like how fan favourite R2-D2 had accompanied heroine Padme Amidala in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones (2002).
When the droid could not be completed in time, a fan builder caught wind of Katie's story and painted his own droid pink, Katie's favourite colour, and shipped it to her.
She reportedly hugged it often before she died of brain cancer in 2005, at the age of seven.
More than a decade later, R2-KT still "gets a lot of love".
Local fans will be able to get up close with the droid, as the pair will be in Singapore for the first time for Star Wars Day.
The annual festival will be held on May 4 and 5 at the F1 Pit Building, culminating in the Star Wars Run Singapore 2018.
Mr Johnson, 49, told The New Paper over the phone from South Carolina: "People shed tears when they meet her. She represents for them the hope and the courage to fight through illnesses and misfortune."
Besides being a symbol of his efforts to spread awareness of paediatric illnesses, R2-KT is also a movie star, having made a cameo appearance in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015).
She got the part after then Lucasfilm event and fan relations lead Mary Franklin made an impassioned plea to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to feature R2-KT in the film.
Mr Johnson admitted he was constantly looking out for her throughout the duration of the movie. His wife and four daughters shouted and jumped when they finally spotted her in a scene among the Resistance, who were preparing to assault the Starkiller Base.
He recalled: "I cried a little. It felt like Katie got to say hello one last time. It was as if she got to be immortal, connecting with the fans who knew about her story."
Adding that Princess Leia was Katie's favourite character, he said he was particularly touched that R2-KT ended up sharing the same space as the late US actress Carrie Fisher.
He said: "For her to be able to stand about 20m from Carrie Fisher, who was a hero of hers, I felt that she could finally be with her princess."
WHAT: Star Wars Day: May The 4th Be With You Festival
WHERE: F1 Pit Building
WHEN: May 4, 3pm to 11pm, and May 5, 11am to 11pm
TICKETS: Admission is free