MARION — In just a week, Brett Wheeler’s transformational tale went from school grounds to cyberspace — and next, perhaps, to One Direction.
The Twitter hashtag #GetBrettTo1D has been tweeted more than 200,000 times since Marion High School student journalist Alex Coleman wrote about her classmate last week. He has become a social media star, the subject of a fundraising campaign to get him and his family to the boy band concert Aug. 23 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
“The outpouring of support from the community is unbelievable,” said Jennifer Wheeler, his mom. “There are no words.”
Brett, a 15-year-old sophomore at Marion High, was born at only 23 weeks. Throughout his life, he has experienced numerous health problems including blindness and the inability to eat for most of his childhood.
That was until a therapist’s creative idea began to improve Brett’s life. The therapist looked up the favorite foods of Brett’s favorite band members. And because he wanted to try the same things as One Direction, Brett ate for the first time, after 11 ½ years. He was finally able to get his feeding tube removed.
One Direction then became an incentive for other things. A teacher used random facts about the band as rewards for reading Braille. Another therapist had him recite lyrics to lessen a stutter.
“It’s my blackmail for everything,” his mom said with a laugh.
Alex and her classmates launched a social media campaign about Brett’s story with the hopes of spreading information, raising money and getting the attention of those who can help.
She has started a GoFundMe page to help with travel, concert tickets, souvenirs and activities in Chicago for Brett and his family.
Businesses sponsored T-shirts so Alex and others could sell them for $10 each to raise money.
“This kid deserves this so much,” she said. “This kid is the funniest, sweetest most inspiring person I have ever met.”
After learning about Brett’s story, Marion High grad Danielle Tiernan decided to help, too. She donated two tickets to the One Direction concert in Chicago.
“He deserves to go so much more than I do,” she said. “It was a dream come true for him. It was just a concert for me.”
Jennifer Wheeler said Brett asked her: “How can I ever thank anybody enough, Mom? There’s just no way.”
But the Wheeler family needs five tickets in all so the whole family could attend the concert together. Alex said the rest of the tickets will cost about $300, but she has a goal of raising $2,000 to pay for other expenses.
After Bob Jordan, president of Marion Boys Baseball, heard about the money still to be raised, he decided to help.
So Marion Boys Baseball will have “Brett Wheeler Day” on Saturday. Jordan said those participating can wear T-shirts instead of uniforms and proceeds from hot dog meals sold at the concession stand will be donated to the cause.
Brett also will get to throw out the first pitch at one of the games.
“People just kind of think we’re in the business of baseball, but really we’re in the business of kids,” Jordan said. “I hope that we get a lot of people come out to help him out. It would be really nice if we could give him a large check.”
Read more at http://www.kcrg.com/subject/news/pair-of-one-direction-concert-tickets-donated-to-marion-teen-20150527#XqzWB0mIcdSzgjRb.99