Last night (July 10), a man named Kevin Doyle led the 501st Legion — Star Wars fans in “The world's definitive Imperial costuming organization” — in a costumed Stormtrooper's march up to the largest stage at San Diego Comic-Con. The crew helped introduce the “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” panel with all the film's stars including Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
Kevin Doyle walked 501 miles (and then some) from around San Francisco all the way to San Diego for the Con. That's because the Doyle is looking for a little peace of mind. He's also raising awareness and funds for a charitable foundation.
“My wife Eileen passed from Pancreatic Cancer, passed in November 2012. We were both members of the 501st Legion, and I thought I have to do something to raise funds for what I'm trying to do for her foundation, which I haven't organized yet. It's called Eileen's Little Angels.”
I met Doyle along a road trip in Northern California late last month. He wasn't wearing his helmet as he walked alongside the Pacific Coast Highway, but his blazing white Stormtrooper armor still did a job of catching the eye. His walking companion looks like a running stroller or ice cream pushcart, that contains overnight gear, food, general life supplies, along with bandanas and blankets, coloring books, plush toys, emblazoned and decorated with his late wife's artwork.
“I've put those together and called them her 'chemo bag.' I put those together and give them to children [with cancer], that's for the fundraising part of it.” Doyle explained his purpose for walking hundreds of miles. “I searched the mileage from San Francisco to San Diego, it comes up 501 miles. I thought, it's just a sign! I do other [fundraising] walks … I should walk or do something. That's what I've gotta do. I gotta walk 501 miles to raise money for my wife's foundation.”
Altogether, Doyle will be walking 1500 miles in three months, “because I also hiked before starting down [to San Diego]… and I decided to do a return trip. A lot of that has to do with for myself for my healing process. so many people do that, who come out here who are healing, I'm hoping for healing for myself, for the walk back.”
While he's at Comic-Con, Doyle obviously has been met with a community of other Star Wars fans, cosplayers and his Legion brethren. He's also hoping to meet more vendors and investors, who can help with the volume of chemo bags he'd like to cobble together to distribute to children with cancer and children's hospitals. Doyle is also an artist — making Star Wars and other property artwork for Topps — but he says recovering from his wife's death “has been really really difficult for me, I just haven't been able to find my way.
“I've been self-destructing for two-and-a-half years and I'm hoping that this will help me with that process 'cause it's all still right at the surface for me,” he said. “November 7. I still think of myself on that day. I still haven't been able to get to November 8 yet. But we'll see… with Eileen's Little Angels and taking her artwork and using it as I'm using it will in itself give me some purpose. So I'm really hopefully people will respond to that and allow me the opportunity to do that and share her artwork with so many people she never had a chance to.”
After the jump, Doyle answered some more questions from the road:
On where he sleeps and how much he walks a day:
Wherever I can. I shoot for 20 miles a day. I hit 20 miles start looking for a place to stop. Hotels, hostels, I've got a cot a sleeping bag. Maybe some friends. Soon I think i'm gonna start pushing a little harder, 30 miles per day, so that I'm walking just Monday through Friday. I'm buying time.
On growing to love walking hundreds of miles in a Stormtrooper outfit
It's kind of silly, I've probably bonded to my stormtrooper armor more than anything else I have. It's always been something where everyone's getting out of their armor and I'm still in it. Now even more so. There is absolutely zero issues with my armor. I don't have any bad spots or pinches. Many nights I sleep in my armor, I don't even take it off. I can ride my bike in my armor. I climbed up in a fire engine cab in Petaluma in my armor, they had me get up there. It was pretty cool.
On what he hopes to get out of the next film, “Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
I really hope to see a lot of the anticipation of the Star Wars ideas come through in this movie. Not that there was anything wrong with the last three, but they just didn't feel the same. The Star Wars titles didn't even feel like the Star Wars titles. So I'm really looking forward to having the original actors back. I'm excited to see how the story unfolds with the main characters and how the new characters are integrated into the story… Han's kids and stuff.
On who his wife's favorite Star Wars characters were
Just judging from her artwork, she drew Yoda more than anybody else. But I know she also really bonded with Salacious Crumb.
On the 501st Legion
I was there at the beginning, they gave me TK172… the 501st honored my wife and gave her TK14172. I started out in '96 or '97. I was pretty into the costuming and it came at the right time. A friend and I joined up at the same time. 501st, back then, it was just a costuming group. People now know we do charity as a group. Like, finally! It's much better than just costuming. As it says — “bad guys doing good.”