CNN – Nicolette Molina’s daughter Layla Murphy is fascinated with “Star Wars.”
The 8-year-old found some of her father’s old toys around her Norfolk, Virginia home and immediately fell in love with that galaxy far, far away.
Of course, she’s hardly alone among kids and adult fans worldwide, but many of those fans don’t have to deal with school bullies.
It all started after she moved to a new school.
“At this new school Layla started coming home more quiet and less of herself, and started asking not to wear her shirts or R2-D2 jacket,” Molina said.
Just as things were looking grim, the “Star Wars” fan army deployed to help Layla strike back.
Layla had taken photos recently at a fan convention with “Star Wars” fan Jason Tuttle, a member of the charitable fan group the 501st Legion (which has worked with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Fisher House and local hospitals).
When he saw those photos that Molina posted on his Facebook page, Tuttle encouraged Layla’s fandom and sent patches, stickers and trading cards to Layla.
Molina told Tuttle about her bullying problems, and subsequently, the 501st fan community came together in support of her on Facebook earlier this month.
“A lot of the Star Wars community and fans are supportive, and a lot of the females can relate and had similar experiences in their own childhoods,” said Molina.
People started sending Layla more and more “Star Wars” gifts.
Not everyone was encouraging, however.
“A lot of people outside the community immediately attack our parenting, saying we should have instilled more confidence in her on our own. I even had one man suggest I teach her to fight.”
“Star Wars” fans, on the other hand, have taught Layla confidence.
Hers might be a familiar story to those who remember Katie Goldman, whose fight against bullying inspired “Wear Star Wars, Share Star Wars Day,” held annually in December.
Layla now feels loved and accepted in her stormtrooper uniform, and recently got a chance to meet one of her heroes, “Weird Al” Yankovic, who has two “Star Wars” parodies in his repertoire.
An added bonus, Molina said, is that Layla enjoys surprising people who expect to see a boy behind the stormtrooper mask.