Ask Jessica Newton about her favorite musicians and before you can even get the question out, she’ll tell you – in no uncertain terms - “Rascal Flatts.” (She even named her beloved dog after the popular country singing group.)
And ask the 19-year-old Oregon girl about her favorite Rascal Flatts song and she answers with the same unbridled enthusiasm - “My Wish.”
Jessica, who is physically and mentally impaired as a result of complications from congenital heart problems, may not fully understand the concept of coincidence there.
The song’s lyrics ring true for and about her:
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northwest Ohio, which grants wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, Jessica and her family – mom Josephine, dad Kevin and sisters Jennifer and Cara – will be heading for Las Vegas to attend the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards next week.
Jessica’s mom says she is grateful and in awe of an organization that would go to such great lengths to bring joy to her daughter and other children with life-threatening illnesses.
Jessica, born with a congenital heart defect, has undergone several surgeries to improve blood flow and heart function. She remains on medication, but her heart will never attain full function, her mom said.
“When she was about four or five months old, during one of the heart procedures they had to do, Jessica had a stroke,” Josephine said. “Then when she was about nine months old, she went through a really, really rough time and during an episode of cardiac arrest, she lost oxygen to her brain. “That’s where her second disability lies,” Josephine said.
Though Jessica is wheelchair bound, it doesn’t inhibit her joyful spirit.
A senior at Clay School, she’ll go through a social graduation this year and return as a repeated senior until she’s 21. Through a work-study type of program at Clay, she volunteers at Mayor Marge Brown’s office three days a week, doing general office work. She also volunteers in the kitchen at Bay Park Community Hospital.
“She loves social interaction - she always wants to be out and doing things,” Josephine said. “No matter where we go, people know her and there are people she knows.
“She’s really known for her bright smile,” she said.
And that smile is biggest and brightest when she’s listening to music.
“Jessica loves all types of music, though her primary love is country music,” her mom said. “She can sit in her bedroom and listen to the radio or watch music videos for hours.
“And she’ll find the country music video station on TV, even if she has to go through all 900 channels,” Josephine said.
“But her absolute favorite is Rascal Flatts,” she said. “She has gone to see them in several different places.
“When she’s at the concerts, she’s so alive and so happy,” Josephine said. “I’m taken back by it.”
So when a family member nominated Jessica to Make-A-Wish last year, and, after meeting the foundation’s criteria, it was time to tell them Jessica’s wish, there was no doubt that it would be something having to do with music. “Her original wish was to have Rascal Flatts come to our house and have a private concert there, but we knew that wasn’t going to happen,” Josephine said.
“We started talking about different music things, and the idea for the Country Music Awards popped up,” she said. Because of scheduling and other logistical issues, the trip was scheduled for this year’s awards in Las Vegas.
The family doesn’t know the complete agenda for their time in Las Vegas, Josephine said. “We’re leaving April 1
And will be attending the awards April 5. The show will air at 8 p.m. on CBS.
“We don’t know a whole lot about what we’ll be doing - they keep things quiet,” Josephine said. “They did say Jessica would meet quite a few stars.
“She’s very excited,” Josephine said. “I’m looking forward to experiencing this with Jessica – we all are.
“We definitely plan to take tons of pictures,” she said. “We just redid Jessica’s bedroom and we’re figuring we’ll be hanging a lot of pictures on the walls when we come back.”
As for Jessica, she’s hoping she’ll get to meet Rascal Flatts. “If I do, I’ll say, `I love you,’” she said.
To support Make-A-Wish’s mission, Josephine is encouraging individuals and teams to participate in the annual Walk for Wishes fund-raiser to be held May 17 at Olander Park in Sylvania. The non-competitive walk will begin at 10 a.m., rain or shine. Individuals and teams may register in advance by calling Holly at 419-244-9474. Walkers can also register at www.northwestohio.wish.org.