Houston teen invites 14-year-old cancer survivor she'd never met to join her at Taylor Swift concert
The Texas Swifties quickly bonded over their love for Taylor and shared a magical night they'll never forget!
A remarkable Texas teen who's battled cancer on and off since she was a baby had her dream come true this weekend thanks to another teen she had never met and Taylor Swift.
Hallie Barnard, 14, was invited to join 17-year-old Gabriella Saadia on the front row of Swift's concert Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Editor's note: The above video originally aired in Nov. 2022.
Gabriella used her early access to buy two extra tickets to Swift's concert so she and her dad could donate them to a pediatric patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
“I heard you’re a really big Swiftie and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me next Sunday to see Taylor Swift at the Eras Tour in the front row?" Gabriella asked Hallie during a Zoom chat.
“Yes, I would love that! Thank you so much!” the thrilled Denton teen replied.
The Swifties quickly bonded over their love for Taylor and, of course, compared notes on their all-important concert outfits.
Hallie: "I'm gonna do an outfit inspired by 'Lavender Haze.'"
Gabriella: “I’m going to do a mix of eras. I’m thinking I’m going 'Lover' with my pink sparkly dress and then I have these sparkly cowboy boots to go with her debut album era, and then I think I might wear mirrorball earrings to bring in some 'Folklore.'"
Hallie: “Oh, and we have to bring friendship bracelets!"
Gabriella: "She puts on the best shows."
Hallie: “Of course, she’s Taylor Swift!"
By the end of the call, the girls were fast friends and they had a blast at the concert!
Despite spending most of her life enduring surgeries, chemo and countless doctor visits, Hallie "radiates positivity." She even started Hallie's Heroes when she was 6 years old to raise awareness and money for other children with cancer and their families.
In fact, that's how she became a Swiftie.
“To help raise money for my charity, we did a music video for Taylor Swift songs so that was the first time that I ever really became absorbed in the Taylor Swift world," Hallie explained. "I’ve been a Taylor Swift song for about five years now."
Chapter 1: Hallie's journey
Hallie was 13 months old when she was diagnosed with Diamond-Blackfan anemia, a rare blood cancer that prevents bone marrow from making red blood cells. The only cure is a bone marrow transplant.
She was nine when a perfect match was found leading to a successful bone marrow transplant when she was 10.
A short time later, pain in her left leg led to more doctor appointments and they discovered she had osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that begins in the cells that form bones.
Surgeons had to amputate Hallie's leg to save her life.
Doctors and nurses at MD Anderson were amazed by her attitude.
“Hallie is an incredible young lady,” Lewis said. “Despite the obstacles that the world has placed in front of her, she is positive and always ready with a smile.”
Hallie even manages to have a sense of humor about her leg, wearing a t-shirt that says "This leg is taking a lot longer than expected to grow back."
She carried a sign to the concert Sunday that said, "Please sign my leg!"
Chapter 2: Hallie's Heroes
While still waiting for her transplant match at age 6, Hallie and her mom and dad were inspired to start Hallie's Heroes Foundation to raise awareness about the national bone marrow registry.
The Barnards partnered with local police and fire departments and other groups in North Texas to recruit bone marrow donors. Their efforts inspired more than 8,000 people to add their names to the registry.
After the rotationplasty to remove her leg, Hallie spent 44 days recovering at MD Anderson. That's when the Bernards decided to expand the mission of Hallie's Heroes to help other families with overwhelming medical bills.
“There have been too many times to count that we have looked at Hallie, realizing that we could lose her very easily,” Elyse Bernard told MD Anderson. “We don’t want this to be the end of Hallie’s story. So my husband and I decided that we would do something for these kids who are so sick.”
The foundation recently pledged $50,000 over five years in support of Lewis and her research on pediatric sarcoma.
“Philanthropic support is incredibly valuable,” Lewis said.
Hallie hopes to become a surgical oncologist someday.
“Ever since I was really little, I’ve always carried around a book on the human body, and my nurses and doctors would read it to me,” Hallie said. “I have a new one now, and it’s my ‘yearbook’ that every doctor and nurse who works with me gets to sign. When I go to college, I’ll be able to look back on it.”
Chapter 3: 'A regular kid'
Hallie continues to be monitored by doctors at MD Anderson, but Elyse said her daughter enjoys just being "a regular kid."
Throughout her journey, Hallie has been named an honorary nurse at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth where they gave her the title of "ambassador of joy and promoter of hope."
She's also been named an honorary Fort Worth Police Department sergeant, Denton County Police Department deputy and a Fort Worth Fire Department firefighter.
Elyse said Hallie loves swimming, crafting and watching “Saturday Night Live.”
Oh, and Taylor Swift, of course. When Hallie's not busy making a difference for other kids with cancer, she dreams of meeting the pop superstar someday.