Kim’s Front Row Experience: The Backstreet Boys Concert
Kim eats, sleeps, and breathes The Backstreet Boys. No kidding. Her room is completely decked out in Backstreet Boys collectibles and posters. She will proudly show off her collection: books, CDs, and Backstreet Boys T-shirts. It is all she talks about. In fact, her tutors use The Backstreet Boys to practice reading, writing, and comprehension with Kim. Not convinced? Well, this ought to convince you: at the tender age of 6, Kim remarkably awoke from a six week coma asking for who else?—The Backstreet Boys!
She is only 21-years-young, and yet her story is extraordinary. She has been through more medical challenges than most people face in an entire lifetime. Despite all the serious critical health challenges Kim has conquered in the past 15 years (and continues to face daily), family will tell you she is resilient, happy-go-lucky, and a real remarkably amazing young lady.
Her Mom, Pam, recalls Kim being a “perfectly normal” 6-year-old. Then, suddenly in February 1999, she took ill and was diagnosed with Viral Encephalitis. This was very serious and her life was at great risk. She was in a coma for six weeks, followed by four months in the hospital, and lastly, more than two years of daily comprehensive rehabilitation. The Viral Encephalitis caused a very serious life threatening seizure disorder called “F.I.R.E.S.”, which stands for Febrile Infection Related Epilepsy Syndrome. Kim has battled this illness and all of its fragile idiosyncrasies every day of her life since 1999.
Today, Kim functions by way of multiple medications, a vagal nerve stimulator implant, vitamins, supplemental Oxygen, and a very restricted Ketogenic Diet which was prescribed by her medical team. And even with all these extreme precautionary measures in place, Kim often endures dozens of seizures each day (some of which occur while she is asleep). Her parents, Pam and Mike, are her full-time caregivers and spend their weeks driving Kim to and from appointments.
Pam hesitatingly applied for Kim for a Front Row Experience after seeing The Today Show segment on NBC. She will openly tell you that she didn’t expect to hear back about the application since there were likely thousands of other applicants stemming from all the nationwide publicity. But, upon receiving Kim’s application, and learning about her crazy infatuation with The Backstreet Boys, everyone at Front Row Foundation knew we just had to make some dreams come true for The World’s Biggest Backstreet Boys Fan: Miss Kim Gilligan!
When Kim learned she would be going to see her beloved Backstreet Boys perform near her hometown, she was quite overwhelmed and in shock. Put yourself in her shoes: someone tells you you’ll be going to see a band you have been idolizing for 15+ years… oh, and you will be about 2 feet from the stage… oh, and your family will be with you! It’s a lot for a raving fan to process. Needless to say, the news sank in, and Kim counted the days until her Front Row Experience.
The weather leading up to Kim’s Front Row Experience offered typical east coast summer characteristics: 95+ degrees and oppressive humidity. Everyone was nervous since this type of weather aggravates Kim’s seizures. But, miraculously, on the day of Kim’s event it was 80 glorious degrees with no humidity!!
Kim’s personal stretch limo arrived at her home to take everyone to lunch. Kim was super nervous about the day, but found reassurance in the fact her family would be by her side the entire time.
After some photos, we hopped into the limo and headed to lunch at The Iron Hill Brewery.
Upon entering the private room in the back of the restaurant, Backstreet Boys music was blaring and Kim burst out into joyous singing!! The Management Staff had arranged this prior to our arrival, and it was a nice surprise for Kim. Everyone was laughing and having a great time.
During lunch, a toast was made to honor Kim and her special day. We announced that we had some surprise news, which we had been keeping secret for more than three weeks: She would be partaking in a Meet & Greet with all 5 of The Backstreet Boys before the show! She flipped out—in fact, her whole family flipped out and Pam even began to cry!
After eating like kings and queens, we were off to The Susquehanna Bank Center for a Pre-Show Sound Check Party with The Backstreet Boys. Kim opened up some gifts on the way.
Arriving at The Susquehanna Bank Center in a white limousine turned heads and Kim felt like a movie star. We jumped out of the limo, and Kim proudly showed off her tickets.
Entering the venue, we were granted Exclusive VIP Silver Passes to enter the Pre-Show Sound Check Party. Kim was so excited that she could hardly breathe. She exclaimed that she was never going to take this off her neck—ever! Everyone laughed, but knew she was completely serious!
The Pre-Show Sound Check Party was very cool and Kim was in awe of how close her idols were to her. The five guys were wonderful and charismatic. They talked to the audience, answered some questions, played a couple of songs, joked around, and even sang Happy Birthday to an adoring fan who traveled all the way from South America to watch them perform. Kim was in heaven.
The Pre-Show Sound Check Party lasted 30 minutes, and then it was time to hit up the ever-important souvenir tables before heading to The Meet & Greet. Kim proudly sported her new BSB T-shirt and sweatshirt. Her family jokingly said they were going to do all their Christmas shopping for Kim at the souvenir tables!
The next experience that took place will never leave Kim’s memory, or her family’s, for as long as they shall live: The much-anticipated Meet & Greet. We waited patiently in a long line, and then before we knew it, the security agent pointed to us, and said “next.” Kim walked confidently toward them, throwing out hugs and chatting away like long-lost friends. It was very endearing to watch. The Backstreet Boys were classy, gracious, and engaged with everyone. They hugged Kim, and listened to her tell them how much she loves them. Her family told them about her six-week-long coma, and upon coming out of it, how she had asked for them. Their hearts instantly melted, and they were all very moved. There was not a dry eye in the house.
They even got in some Front Row pose action!
Kim was on Cloud 9—overflowing with adrenalin-infused elation! Her face was beaming with a joy indescribable to others. Here we are about five minutes later sitting in our seats about three feet from the stage. Her face says it all…
Avril Lavigne performed the opening act, but Kim was less than impressed. She was here for one reason: to see The Backstreet Boys. The venue went black, the crowd screeched, and the thundering music began. The lights went up, and out strutted 5 handsome Backstreet Boys in navy blue suits. Just when we thought Kim could not be any happier—she almost exploded with happiness!
Kim was so close that the guys’ sweat was literally being flung onto her as they danced by. She was laughing and did not care one bit!
Kim kept saying, “I’ve never done this before.” We reassured her it was ok and there was no need to be nervous. With some gentle prodding, she sang her heart out and motioned to the guys with her hands how much she loves them.
The guys actually remembered Kim from The Meet & Greet before the show, and made a point to stand right in front of her—pointing and winking to her. She was surprised and a little embarrassed, but also really loved it.
Nearing the end of the show, a few of The Backstreet Boys autographed Kim’s poster, which was a very big deal because they did not do this for any other fans. Kim watched in great awe, and thanked them.
The encore was pretty spectacular. The guys reappeared to a roaring crowd singing, “Backstreet’s back—ah yeah!” The place went insane and, and so did Kim! The vibrating sound waves from the guitars and drums reverberated against your chest… the energy was absolutely electric.
The show sadly came to a close, and after three hours of standing on her feet, Kim was tuckered out and ready to head home in her limo. What an unforgettable day it had been! Her family was very emotional and grateful to everyone at Front Row Foundation for making Kim’s dream come true.
It seems only fitting to end with this letter from Courtney Jones, Kim’s eldest sister, which came to us a couple of days after Kim’s Front Row Experience:I cannot begin to thank you for all of your hard work and generosity in providing Kim the sheer joy of fulfilling a life long dream of hers. My sister Kim has been denied so much in life due to her illness. She has had to miss out on school, friends, birthdays, and holidays because of the nature and intensity of her illness. Kim never complains about this, rather finds comfort in The Backstreet Boys. Through your organization you were able to provide Kim an opportunity that she would never have otherwise had. Seeing the look on her face during her Front Row Experience had me tearing up. The Backstreet Boys have been huge a huge part of this journey with us.
Even before Kim’s experience, Front Row had shown pure acceptance and understanding to what my family, and most importantly, Kim had been through. The level of support I felt with Angela and Shannon was very comforting. It was extremely revitalizing to not have to carry the burden of Kim’s illness with us for one day, rather to celebrate Kim and the amazing person that she is.
This experience was something that we were unable to do for her ourselves and I am so thankful of your organization and generosity. This experience is something that my entire family will look back on fondly and will be talked about over and over again. Kim has been on cloud 9, still clutching her VIP pass, since the event. I feel such joy for her. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what you do.
I just think you are “the cat’s pajamas,” “the bee’s knees,” the coolest chic I know!! I absolutely love your style, your sense of humor, and your unabashed love for The Backstreet Boys. You inspire me to live life to the fullest, and to scream out The Backstreet Boys songs on the radio in my car when they come on. HA! I will never forget your Front Row Experience at The Backstreet Boys concert…ever. Stay strong girl, and remember to always “Live Life in the Front Row.”
– Shannon Coon, Sr. Event Director