The Excellent Adventures of Casey James’ Special Friends by Barbara Bortle
As many of you know, I am a very recent breast cancer survivor & my goal over the past year has been to get well enough to attend a Casey concert. His story & his music both touched my heart & served as a compelling inspiration in my battle with this disease. Having followed him since “that TV show”, I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many of his amazing fans online thru Twitter and FaceBook, but most significantly thru Shari Geller’s The Casey James Blog. One truly special fan in particular, Marie Leathem, had the idea of sponsoring me to go to Casey’s concert in Roanoke, VA on October 14th, at the annual Pajama Jam Breast Cancer Benefit held there in conjunction with a local radio station. Marie put the idea out there, and Casey’s awesome fans responded with true “Caseyness”, raising not only enough money to pay my expenses, but also enough to make a $1,312.00 donation to the American Cancer Society in Casey’s name. The following is the story of that magical evening.
I flew into Roanoke from New Orleans Friday afternoon & I was greeted by my dear friend, Painter, as I like to call her. She has been attendin Casey concerts all year & gettin Casey to sign pictures for me at nearly every show, as well as lettin me listen to him play via her cell phone. She had a few surprises up her
sleeve, it turned out…I turned around & there was another dear friend, NorthCountryGirl!!! NCG, as we call her, filled in when Painter couldn’t at gettin Casey to sign pictures for me at his shows. Then we went outside and there was a black stretch LIMO waitin to take us to the hotel!!!!! We were giddy like little kiddies the whole way there. Roanoke is a beautiful place, and the hotel was simply splendid. We went to our room to freshen up & then went out to get a bite to eat.
Earlier in the week leadin up to the show, I had been informed that David, Casey’s Sony guy, would be callin me to discuss & coordinate my meetin with Casey (SQUEE!), so every time my cell phone made a noise, the three of us would jump with anticipation. Of course, there was a copious amount of textin back & forth with Marie, so we got LOTS of exercise…lol. Back at the hotel, we checked out the arrangements for the show, which included a dinner & silent auction. We found out that we’d hafta line up outside in the courtyard to register & wait for the doors to the ballroom to open at 6 p.m. Now, just picture this…we’re all in our pj’s & there’s a gale force wind blowin out there & the line was around-the-corner long! I was freezin my brand new boobies off…lol…but it was well worth it to see Casey!!! And keep in mind, that all this time, we’re waitin for that call from David…we got word from Marie that it would be around the time sound check was goin on, so we settled down to wait….impatiently, I’m afraid.
Well, sound check came & went without a phone call, so I began to think it wasn’t gonna happen….you ALL know how guys are…they SAY they’ll call but they never DO! Lol… We cheered ourselves up by plannin to see Casey after the show when we hoped he’d come out to sign autographs & take pics with the fans. Finally, the doors opened & the line began movin….we were almost at the end of it, so by the time we got inside all the tables up front had been claimed. We found a spot in the very back, but centrally located, so we could see alright. It was just a tad too far back to take any really good pictures, tho, and the music comin over the PA system was ear-splittin, so I put my phone on vibrate, just in case THE CALL came thru. Then I got a text…from DAVID!!! It said that they wouldn’t let us down, not to worry, they weren’t at the hotel yet, but they’d see us after Casey’s set. I texted my thanks back & that we were all lookin forward to meetin them. Then we finally were able to breathe again & relax a lil bit…lol
Hunter Hayes came on stage to play & he was very entertaining…the dinner was buffet style, so we had to get up to get our food, but I took that phone with me, just in Casey! Right near the end of Hunter’s set, my phone vibrated again…it was another text from DAVID!!! He asked if we could come to one of the meetin rooms right NOW…I said lemme think about it…hah! I texted back “sure” & told Painter & NCG to come on!!! We moved outta there like Commandos on a mission to save the free world…lol We found a nice lady who said she’d take us to the meetin room & before we knew it, we were in the same room with CASEY!!!!!!!!!! (in his robe & pajamas!!!!)
There were some other people in there for what I guess was a radio station
meet & greet…David introduced us as “special friends” and we waited until
they were all done before it was our turn. This was my first glimpse of Casey up
close & personal….I gotta tell y’all….pictures don’t do him justice….he is
INFINITELY more gawjus in person!!! I had brought with me all the pictures
he’d signed…on one of them he’d written “Get well soon & come get a
HUG!”…so I got that one out, as well as the donation check to give him, and
waited for my turn. Casey looked up at us & he recognized Painter…his face lit
up the whole room & he said “Hi!!! It’s great to see you again!!” I’m kinda fuzzy
about what happened next, but then I was standin in front of him & showin him
the “HUG” picture he’d signed…I told him I had come to collect it & he said,
“Well, here it is!” Then he gave me the biggest, bestest bear hug I have ever had
in my life!!!! It was sheer heaven….he just holds on for dear life. I totally forgot to sniff him…or even breathe!!! When the hug was over, he still kinda had his arm around me for a while….awwww, So Sweet!!! Then I told him that not only did his fans pay my expenses, but look at what else they did & I showed him the check. He was absolutely blown away by it….he was almost speechless. I think he got a lil bit choked up…the look on his face was pure awe. I told him that it was his fans showing their “Caseyness”, spreading love & good works…he said, “You’re too kind”…and I told him “No, Casey, this is all because of YOU & your music…you have touched so many people by your example.” He was so humble & appreciative…listenin so intently to what I was sayin…it was just incredible! Then I told him how his struggle with the accident served as my inspiration thru my battle…that I thought of him in that wheel chair tryin to learn how to walk & play guitar again, and I’d think “If Casey can do THAT, then I can do this”…and he said “Awwww” & he gave me ANOTHER enormous hug…OMG!!! I just about died that very moment! He is the sweetest, most adorable Dawlin ever & I’m getting choked up just rememberin it all. At some point I asked him to do a special favor for me & he said he would. I also invited him to New Orleans & he said he’d love to come, that he has family there! Then I asked him to sing my tee shirt & he wrote “That was a great hug! Great to meet you! Love, CJ” I thanked him & it was over…time to let Painter & NCG have some face time with him. We took a group picture, which was fun because the radio station guys & David were all takin pictures with our various cameras & kept messin up, so we’d hafta pose again & again!!! We all thanked David & then went back to the ballroom for Casey’s set.
Y’all have seen the videos & pics from Casey’s performance by now, so I won’t
be redundant here, except to say that when Casey played his single Let’s Don’t
Call It a Night, the ENTIRE room erupted in hoots & hollahs & applause!!! And
by the time he finished with Poke Salad Annie, they were all on their feet
screamin & cheerin for more!!! He won over many new fans that night with his
music, his amazin guitar skills, and his incredibly charmin ways. He is gonna be
SUCH a big star soon…I’m glad I got to meet him now, cuz before we know it,
we won’t be able to get next to him like we can in these early days of his career.
When Casey came out after the show, we waited in line to see him one last time.
I just wanted to thank him again for bein So Sweet to me…the line was LONG,
lemme tell y’all! At one point, poor Casey looked out over the line & just sighed,
but he never lost that beautiful smile on his face for one second. When he saw us
waitin, his face lit up again & he gave us an incredibly special smile. I told him I
just wanted to thank him again…he came around the table to give me
ANOTHER huge hug!!!! OMG!!! How lucky am I??? I reminded him about
comin to New Orleans & he said he would (YAY!) & then I checked with David
to make sure he gave the donation check to the right people. He had forgotten
(men!), so he checked with the radio station people & they said they would
make sure it was delivered to the American Cancer Society. Then he said he’d
see us in New Orleans at the Cafe du Monde & I said we’d all have beignets!!!!
In closing….y’all were thinkin I’d never get to the end, right? lol…I just want to express my deep, deep gratitude for what y’all have done to make my dream
come true in such a special & unforgettable way. I feel like I’m finally livin MY
life again, and it’s all thanks to your Caseyness!!!
Much, much love,