Kayleigh and the Foo Fighters
Once upon a time, as all the best stories start, there was a beautiful fourteen year old girl called Kayleigh. She loves music, plays music, is wicked smart. And does her homework on time. So a pretty cool kid already.
But there's a lot more to Kayleigh than being pretty damn cool. You see, Kayleigh Ballam is a young carer. She cares for her mum Mandy and sister Giuliana. Giuls is in a wheelchair and has nf1 kyphoscoliosis. She is also a sweetheart and has the prettiest smile.
I had the privilege of meeting the three of them a few weeks ago and seeing Kay in action is something to behold- smart, selfless, caring, attentive. And hard to see as well because the truth is a 14yo should be able to be a 14yo. But those weren't the cards this family were dealt.
The family are very open about things and that's refreshing. Spades are definitely spades. No bs, just how it is. And it's difficult. The trips for check ups, meds, transport with a wheelchair even with a vehicle is difficult. There's more but I'll leave it to Kayleigh or Mandy to add that if they choose. So for us to be able to give Kayleigh just tickets felt like a gift I was receiving.
Poor Kay! When I rang to say we had tix for her the conversation ended abruptly as tears came and conversation was impossible. It was presenting the tickets that I met the three of them. Kayleigh wondered if there were others more deserving, who would look after Mum and Giuls. We tried to get a Foos tshirt in town but nowhere sold them. Oh well, pick one up at the show I say and we'll fund it.
As the show gets closer I really feel I want to do so much more for Kayleigh yet feel so impotent as we're only a young project, not known at all with pennies in the bank. The best I could come up with was to ask if a few folks would post messages of good wishes in a facebook group I'd set up. Now, some crazy folks, let's call them...oh, Fookers, thought a meet n greet would be a good idea. Sure. How?
When the good stuff happens, it happens. I'd already sent a bunch of emails to the Foo email address I could find. Nada. I worked, you worked and a tweet campaign started rolling. I've sent 10 tweets till last Wednesday. I actually didn't know how it worked. But by midnight that night I'd worked out how to tweet at FF followers of their official account. I put the phone down at 2.30 in the morning. And start again the next day and I've sent 4/500 by the time I get a tweet to check my DMs. In case I'd missed it I was getting pms on fb, texts, and a gazillion retweets/favourites. I noticed.
And there starts the process that ends with a day I'll never forget. Seeing Kayleigh light up, seeing her dumbfounded, seeing the way the band treated her, her time with Brad from the Vamps.
There's more, a lot more.
But for now I'll leave you with this.
Kayleigh didn't have a clue. Not an inkling. I thought in this social media era she'd have found out but no. I rang mum to keep her updated and Kayleigh walks in as we're on the phone. I get Kay on the phone to say I was just checking she's all set and excited. Phew! Got away with it.
I also find out her science teacher has been teasing her and calling her a traitor for going without her as she's a huge fan. And Kayleigh being Kayleigh made sure to get her teacher an autograph when she met Dave.
So Mandy and Dad Pete know. I know. Elenya, my assistant and sanity knows. You know.
But on Saturday night, Kayleigh goes to bed excited to see the Foos with her Dad not knowing Dave is going to greet her with the biggest hug you could imagine less than 24 hours later.
Sunday, Beautiful Sunday.
I'm not sure how Kayleigh was when she woke on Sunday other than awash with excitement.
I checked in with Mandy to discover Kayleigh and Dad had just left. She was bubbling with anticipation and still hadn't a clue. I called Kayleigh to let her know about the Kayleigh's Off To See The Foos page and wished her a great day. Only she didn't know I'd be seeing her in a few hours.
Perfect timing being what it is we all arrived within 5 minutes of each other with Kay having the first shock of her day as I walk up and say hi. I said I was there because I had to sort out an upgrade for her.
Perhaps it's a little mean but I couldn't resist teasing her a little including saying I could send her to 1D instead if she didn't fancy an upgrade. A look of horror was followed by...'please don't'. I said I'd managed to get an upgrade but didn't know how good. We waited for the ticket release adding a delicious layer of uncertainty and excitement.
They get released and I wander back to Kayleigh dangling an 'Artist' wristband. Bright yellow and pure gold to Kayleigh. Still utterly in the dark she asks Elenya if she thinks it's possible she might bump into the band?
We head in and I've now got to work out where to go without giving anything away to Kay. I'm getting away with it. But there's a problem. I can't send texts. Can't call. I need to get hold of Gaby from the Foos. No signal. I use 3 phones. Nothing. On one hand great anxiety, on the other I'm thinking whatever happens somehow I'm getting a message to Gaby. I go behind towards the artist area and the signal jumps as if to say...this is where you're meant to be. 'Where are you? Ok, I'm on my way.' I run back to get Kayleigh and we arrive as Gaby does and I have time to whisper to her...'she still hasn't got a clue'. Gaby plays it's beautifully as Kayleigh rides in a golf cart to the artist's area. 'We're going for a nice cup of tea'.
Then into a portakabin, all the while Kay keeps asking 'What's happening, why are we here? What's happening?' She's actually starting to go a little pale, the unanswered questions mingling with possibility.
Then the door opens wide and the band come in, Dave leading. He grabs Kayleigh and gives her a huge hug. Huge, a meeting your best friend you thought you'd never see again huge hug.
And Kayleigh meets Dave. Then the whole band introduce themselves.
Kayleigh was incredible. Sure, tears and shock. And the next thing she'll be chatting about playing the bass. And more shock. And more chat. A 14 year old meeting their hero without knowing a thing about it and she's having a conversation! Pete and Mandy can be so proud of Kayleigh. The band were great with her and as things wind down and we get ready to go outside for a photo Dave says, 'Kayleigh, we'd like you to watch from the stage.' Her face is beautiful. A beautiful mix of sheer joy and pure shock. As if to say...it gets better than this?
We have the photo and the Foos say bye and Kayleigh cries with Elenya taking such gentle care of her.
Tears, such beautiful tears. Shock, joy, wonder.
So, what to do after hanging out with your Hero(es)?
Well, there's a show going on so we all figure some music is in order. Though we do have to take a moment to try and post photos, update statuses and let close friends, especially mum, know.
Which also gives time for the moment to sink in a little. I say a little because I know it's still sinking in fully.
We catch some of Ellie Goulding and then Kayleigh's second favourite band, The Kaiser Chiefs. Yes, the 1-2 punch. The Foos are way out in front but the Chiefs are genuinely the second. It's as if the day was made with Kayleigh in mind. She really likes The Vamps as well but more of that later.
We have to cut the Chiefs a little short as we need to head backstage for the appointed hour. We wait, again under Gaby's watchful eye, to head up to the onstage viewing area. We're not alone as others join us to see the show. Up you go, comes the word and we're a few people back. I'm a little disappointed as I'd have liked Kayleigh to be at the front. 'Wait', Gaby says and waves Kayleigh, the star of the show, to the front so she goes up first and chooses her spot.
So all there is to do now is wait for the show to start. Kayleigh is sparkling. An intermingling of sheer joy and utter disbelief. All there is to wait and drink in the delight. Oh, there's Prince Harry. (I've heard he's still pretty miffed no-one set up a meet and greet with Kay for him but I guess he'll get over it.) Just wait and...
We're about three foot from this older lady who is quietly sitting in a chair for the show to start on the other side of the viewing area rail. I've no idea who she is but figure crew management maybe? Still, not your average rock show punter but she seems pretty cool but I've no idea...
She turns and looks up. 'Are you Kayleigh?' 'Yes.'
'Hello, I'm Dave's Mum.'
The Foos come on and I'm pretty sure Kayleigh was in her own heaven there for a while.
To be stood next to her, watching her alive with pure wonder is something I'll never forget. And her face when Dave gestured to her a couple of times was a picture of delight. I can't say more than the photo below does. The show ends and we're ready to leave with a young lady who is in raptures.
Time to go home. Or so we think.
Kayleigh has her setlist. She's beaming brightly and as far as Elenya and I are concerned she's outshone Prince Harry. We start to head out to find our way home. But wait, we're being sent right not left? Left is out, right is to backstage. Backstage? Oh, ok. We head down and Kayleigh has to have a wee rest on the way down, it's ok, it's been quite a day really. I'm sure there are seats backstage so we head down. We get back and find a seat for Kayleigh and settle down. It's like being with someone of 14 who has never had a Christmas and it's all happening at once. As if Santa is playing catch up. Bubbling, stunned, having already had dreams that can't be dreamed because they don't come true. And now backstage. Well, quite obviously the setlist needs signing and Ellie's quiet word with security has the setlist returned embroidered with the signatures of all the Foos. So maybe a bit more hanging out, no there's Dave, best go have a chat. This is when her science teacher gets her autograph. Kayleigh has photos with Dave and is made to feel so special and he's great with her. People say he's one of the nicest guys in rock and there isn't anything but truth in this. Kayleigh has a chat with Dave's mum who was just a wonderful woman to talk with. Brad from The Vamps turns up and Ellie takes Kay to get his autograph and say hi but she's ignored. This is not happening. Come on, give a kid a break and sign already. The wait is a while and disappointing. Until it turns out Brad isn't ignoring Kayleigh but waiting to say hi to Dave himself as The Foos are huge to him, oh ok. Brad turns out to be a pure sweetheart and gives the autograph and then chats for a while. Now Kayleigh's best friend is getting bullied by her step sister and is a huge Vamps fan, huge. Kayleigh does what Kayleigh does and thinks of others and says to Ellie she wants to ask Brad to call her. Ellie takes the reins and the next thing Brad is talking with this kid telling her she's great and not to let this bully get her down. The band have gone. We're now heading home. Once in the car and a few messages later she was fast asleep with the setlist right beside her.For me there were two stars of Sunday. The Foo Fighters and Kayleigh. I wanted Kayleigh to feel special, to be the centre of attention. To receive a little of what she gives at home. That started with giving the tickets and then asking the Foo Fam if they'd post messages wishing her a great day. And then a few messages turn into meeting the band, watching from the stage, chatting with Dave's mum, more hanging with Dave. Kayleigh was the star on Sunday. For once it was all about her and The Foo Fighters made a young woman walk very tall and feel so very special.