“I’ve put plastic on your chair…. so feel free to wet yourself with excitement.” – Sue Sylvester
Blow out birthday candles, see a shooting star, throw a penny into a fountain, send a dandelion away with your breath…. And what would your wish be? I always wish for a cure for arthritis – but let’s assume you have to come up with a more practical wish that somebody could actually grant. What would it be?
For my daughter, for the last two years, the wish would have involved the cast of her favorite TV show Glee. It’s been a Tuesday evening ritual of ours to watch the show together. Some of the subject matter is a little mature, so I welcome the opportunity to watch and discuss with her… sometimes “those” conversations are easier to have when they are about characters on a TV show. But I also enjoyed rediscovering so much great music with her. The Choral peeps from my own middle school and high school days were always my safe haven. As a former gleek, there was a part of me that hoped the show would light a fire in Caitlin to pursue some glee of her own. Mostly though, we just enjoyed it together – a comforting ritual we share after all the guys in our house are asleep.
As a matter of fact, when Caitlin had her right hip replaced in November of 2010, it was a Tuesday. The day had started before dawn, with pre-operative tasks. It had been emotionally and physically draining. That evening, she was starting to get a sense of her pain as the strongest of the pain meds were wearing off. By 8pm, the family guests had gone home, we had been introduced to our night nurse and I was trying to set up my cot. We had almost forgotten what day it was when we found Glee. It was the first episode that guest starred Gwyneth Paltrow as Holly Holliday – and for one hour, the IV, the pulsing leg cuffs, the oxygen monitors, all the noise of the hospital just disappeared. It was just a comfortable, normal moment that rooted us back in our lives.
This past November, I was telling this story at the Commitment to A Cure Gala in Beverly Hills. Caitlin, Dave and I were up on stage to introduce the new kids camp video, which was followed by a paddle raise auction to support camp. I shared the story as I was talking about some of the best gifts that camp offers kids with arthritis, particularly, the ability to feel completely normal. In their element, with the safety of understanding friends and no need to make excuses for a limp, or difficulty moving or whatever. It reminded me of Glee, that evening after the surgery – and how wonderful it was to just have that “normal” moment. After the camp video, Caitlin and her friend Alexa talked about camp and got the auction rolling. (The third Musketeer Mikayla unfortunately was feeling really ill from new JA meds and had to leave before the auction…)
What I didn’t know was that in the audience that evening was a Fairy Godmother. She heard my story, and she heard my daughter’s unspoken wish. At the end of the auction, she snuck up to the stage and whispered to the auctioneer that Caitlin, and her two best JA girlfriends, would get to visit the set of Glee. Alexa jumped up and down, and to my absolute delight – Caitlin started crying tears of joy. After so many events where Caitlin has muttered under her breath through clenched teeth, “Stop crying, Mom!”, it frankly made her dad and I giggle to watch her dissolve into a puddle of happy tears! To say that she was thrilled would be an understatement.
Missy Halperin, AKA Fairy Godmother, is the Senior Vice President of Talent Relations at Fox Broadcasting. After the Gala, I got the chance to speak with her. She’s a mom too, and we talked about kids and teens and dealing with peer pressure. She was at the Gala to support her good friend Teri Hatcher, as she was being honored for her work advocating for kids with arthritis. I mentioned that I had never applied for a Wish for Caitlin, but if I had, this would have been the Wish. Missy told me that if I had, she would have been the one the request went to! Weren’t we lucky that our Fairy Godmother was there that evening?
So that’s how it came to be that three thirteen year girls got to visit the set of Glee last Friday. They got to sit in the history classroom and watch filming take place on the monitors. They got to meet Finn, Kurt, Mercedes, Quinn, Santana, Sam, Sugar and the new Irish Guy. They posed on the Glee “stage”, the locker room, the teacher’s lounge and even at Sue Sylvester’s desk! They gushed and giggled and asked the actors what had been their favorite song to sing. The actors were genuinely kind and generous with their time. The girls passed out KGAT bracelets and they took photos… and they felt a little like stars themselves!
For them, it was thrilling to meet these talented actors, some of them severely crushed over. They were star-struck and just overcome with being on set. Who wouldn’t want to see all the Cheerios trophies? But it was also more……For just a few minutes – those actors that are adored on one of the top network shows each week, were listening to the fact that Kids Get Arthritis Too! They were donning a blue foam hand and smiling in pics with these girls. It wasn’t an ad campaign, or some big national recognition – but for these girls that spend so much time fighting the notion that arthritis only affects old people and is no big deal – this was HUGE. This was a really lovely, validating moment….and you can’t help feeling that seeds were planted. Seeds that will possibly result in one of these girls pursuing entertainment. Or just seeds that help them believe that they can accomplish their dreams, like some of these actors have. And maybe, one of those actors or crew members will remember the 300,000 kids with arthritis…and it will lead to more seeds, more awareness… more wishes coming true.
So Thank you Fairy Godmother, for making these dreams come true! And Thanks to you Gleeks for being so great to my girls! This one will be cemented in memory….