TERRE HAUTE —
Katelyn Newell’s story continues to touch the hearts of people across the country.
Katelyn, an 8-year-old Terre Haute resident and Deming Elementary student, is awaiting a heart transplant at Riley Hospital for Children. She’s been there for three, long months.
Her family learned one year ago today that she would need a transplant.
Those who hear her story — and learn that she’s a Justin Bieber fan — have looked for ways to brighten her hospital stay and make her wishes come true.
Last month, Fishers resident Alexandra Traycoff gave Katelyn and her mom an extra set of tickets to Bieber’s July 10 concert at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Traycoff has been a heart patient at Riley and its outpatient center since she was just a few months old.
Now, a woman from Fayetteville, North Carolina — who has a Terre Haute connection — has gone one step further; she has purchased tickets for Katelyn and Alexandra to attend a more personal meet-and-greet event with Bieber.
Brittany Fisk said she paid $4,000 for the tickets, using money she’s raised through Operation Giveback, a fundraising project she hopes to turn into a nonprofit.
She learned about Katelyn through Shelbie Schneider, 21, a Terre Haute resident. Fisk and Scheider initially “met” through Twitter because both are avid Bieber fans. In fact, both have attended Bieber concerts and met the famous pop singer through meet-and-greets.
Fisk has purchased tickets for other Bieber fans to attend his concerts, typically those with special circumstances who otherwise might not be able to attend. “I just started buying tickets and giving them away to people who deserved them,” she said.
Enter Schneider, who has been helping Fisk with her “Operation Giveback” effort. Recently, Schneider’s grandmother brought to her attention the story of Katelyn receiving tickets to Bieber’s concert.
When she read the story, “I had tears in my eyes,” Schneider said. “I want her to meet Justin. I feel she deserves it for all she has been through.”
So, she emailed the story to Fisk, and both agreed to make it a priority.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Fisk said she has the meet-and-greet tickets. In addition, through Operation Giveback, she and Schneider hope to continue raising money to help with costs associated with the transplant.
If for whatever reason, the family would not need the funds, the money would go to Riley Hospital, Fisk said.
Fisk and Schneider are determined to see that Katelyn has an opportunity to meet Bieber. If the timing of the transplant is such that Katelyn can’t attend the concert or meet-and-greet, they plan to do whatever it takes to arrange a personal visit from Bieber.
“I’ll stand outside his hotel if I have to and carry a banner,” said Schneider, a Terre Haute North Vigo High School graduate and teller at First Financial Bank.
Robin Newell, Katelyn’s mom, has been in touch with Fisk and she has met with Schneider. “I’m shocked … It’s amazing how people just hear about Katelyn’s story and want to help as much as they can,” Newell said.
Fisk plans to come to Indiana in July and hopefully before then. In July, she’ll present the meet-and-greet tickets to the Newells. She and Schneider also plan to attend the Bieber concert.
“I just see an 8-year-old girl fighting for her life, and I just want to give her happiness,” Fisk said.
Schneider said that after she met Bieber, “It changed my life.”
And now, she wants to do the same for Katelyn. Meeting Bieber “is a memory that will never go away,” Schneider said.
For more information about the efforts of Fisk and Schneider, go to www.operationgiveback.org
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.