Staff from Akron Children's Hospital are working feverishly to make a dream come true for terminally ill patient Megan Parker, a 13-year-old Hayesville resident and devoted Justin Bieber fan.
It started with an "open plea" blog post Parker's music therapist Sarah Tobias wrote to pop superstar Bieber asking him to come meet Parker between tour stops. The post shared Parker's story and included a YouTube video of Parker singing Bieber's "Baby." Since the post went up Nov. 15, it has attracted more than 1,400 readers and hundreds have liked, tweeted and shared it on social media websites.
Meanwhile, Tobias' boyfriend, Joe Gaiter, gathered about 300 letters to Bieber from students in the James A. Garfield school district where he teaches.
"The community is aware of this plea, and they're supporting it in large numbers," Tobias said.
But despite the buzz, Tobias wasn't sure how to get Bieber's attention in time for the pop star to visit Parker on his way through the area between tour stops Nov. 21 as she originally hoped.
"We never heard from him in regards to stopping in between tour stops," Tobias said. "But we're not giving up."
Now, Tobias and the hospital's public relations team are trying to get the attention of Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun.
"Everything goes through Scooter Braun for the Bieb," said hospital spokeswoman Laurie Schueler, adding one of her colleagues heard about Braun through a pop culture writer at Newsweek. So the hospital has started tweeting @ScooterBraun to ask Bieber to visit Parker, and Tobias plans to send Braun a letter along with a sampling of the student letters her boyfriend collected.
Parker, an eighth-grader at Mapleton Middle School, has been in Akron Children's Hospital's pediatric intensive care unit since Sept. 7 with respiratory failure resulting from her rare condition, Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. Because she is on a ventilator, Parker couldn't sing or even speak when she was admitted to the hospital, but during her stay, Parker has learned to breathe backward across her vocal chords to produce sounds. As part of her therapy, she learned to sing and play the ukulele to record a CD that includes some of her favorite Bieber songs.
Parker says her favorite music is "anything by Justin Bieber" because "he's got a good voice and he's cute and he's all the girls' crush."
She has four Justin Bieber dolls and posters of the artist at home and in her hospital room. She keeps up on Bieber-related news and insists the artist's recent breakup with Selena Gomez was just a ruse for publicity.
Tobias said Parker's Bieber fever provides her with a sense of normalcy and a connection to her peers and the music raises her spirits.
"Megan meeting Justin would just be priceless," said Megan's mother, Jaclyn Parker. "I don't know if there's words to describe how that would touch her life."
Jaclyn said Megan is doing well was to be discharged Tuesday, Dec. 4.
"It would be the best birthday gift of my life," said Jaclyn, whose birthday was Dec. 3.