While Kevin Doyle may be wearing a costume to Comic-Con International in San Diego like many other attendees, his Star Wars gear serves a much greater purpose (grab the tissues, folks).
In honor of his late wife Eileen, the Minnesota man has walked over 600 miles down the California coast while wearing a Stormtrooper costume. According to reports, Doyle and his wife were huge fans of the sci-fi series and would often dress up in costume together.
Doyle, 57, began his voyage on June 6 at the Star Wars museum in Petaluma, and the walk was scheduled to end Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center. He told the San Diego Union Tribune that he lost his creative spark after his wife died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, and he hopes the trek will help him return to work as a photographer and illustrator. He also hopes to raise money for a children's charity he launched in his late wife's name.
"In the time since she died, I've struggled with how to deal with the loss. I've been self-destructive and my art suffered," he said. "Being out here, my mindset is an open book. I hope I find enough healing to be creative and work in that way again."
During his walk, Doyle has braved heat waves, rainstorms and traffic, but he said he has enjoyed his journey, due, in part, to the kindness of strangers he's encountered, many of whom have shared their own cancer battles.
"Sometimes they just want to stop and give me a hug," he said. "I haven't wrapped my head around it at this point. I'm walking to honor my wife, but I had no idea that people would make it their own personal journey."
Doyle and his wife, who worked as a comics artist, met through their mutual love of Star Wars and its costume organization, the 501st legion. He proposed to Eileen while dressed as Darth Vader in 2009 and an R2D2 robot served as the ring bearer in their 2010 wedding.
Doyle has walked between 20 to 45 miles each day to coastal campgrounds. He always wears his Stormtrooper's costume, but only dons the helmet for photographs, as it impairs his vision and hearing.
Doyle's journey first came about when he planned a trip earlier this year to visit the Star Wars museum in Petaluma and thought he might also like to stop by Comic-Con. Upon Google-mapping the distance between San Francisco and San Diego, he discovered it was 501 miles—a sign, he believed, since he and his wife were members of the 501st legion.
"When you lose somebody, you look for things like that," he said. "To me it was like she was telling me that this was something I needed to do."