You may have heard about the lucky girl from Sherwood Park, Alberta who was finally able to meet her idol, Justin Timberlake, after months of garnering support on her Facebook page.
Amanda Renneberg – the lucky girl in question – is 27 years old, and is affected by Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA.)
“It’s probably pretty obvious that my life has not completely turned out how I hoped and dreamed it would, but really, who can say their life has traveled this journey exactly how they thought it should? I was diagnosed at 18 with FA. Friedreich’s Ataxia has drastically changed my life. I choose to deal with things as they come, so future expectations would not hinder me from living a meaningful life. Every person’s future is unknown to them, regardless of FA, so one day at a time is a very important life philosophy to embrace.”
Justin Timberlake played an important role in Amanda’s life as she has been a fan from the beginning in 1998 when ‘N Sync’s debut self-titled album was released worldwide. At the time, Amanda was 11 years old, and FA did not exist to her yet, “Justin is a huge inspiration to me. I love his music, his dance moves, he is so incredibly talented. His voice just has a power to make me feel good, he inspires me to move.”
Many fans try to get tickets, but how did the idea to start a social media campaign to actually meet Timberlake come about? “Back in August 2013 we drove to Vancouver to see him perform. After seeing him then, I thought it would be a dream come true to be able to meet him. So I started Facebook and Twitter pages to try to achieve a dream, what’s the harm in trying?”
The power of social media got Amanda’s story noticed by Global News, radio stations, and many other new outlets. Amanda gave several television interviews which she describes as, “…super nerve racking. I did several TV interviews, radio interviews, newspaper interviews…I was very nervous for every single one. I’m a small town girl – I had never been on TV before, but I would tell myself, JT is worth it! Raising awareness of FA is worth it!”
After months of getting her story out there, Amanda received a phone call from none other than Justin Timberlake himself. “I was absolutely speeches! I knew it was him the second he spoke. He was so kind, he told me he saw my newspaper article and he couldn’t wait to meet me in person.”
Amanda had already bought tickets for both of the tour dates in Edmonton, but those tickets ended up going to someone else, “I was given the royal treatment both nights at the concert – we were backstage in his friends/family room. Myself and three others were given VIP tickets! I was able to pay it forward and give away my two accessible seats for both shows.”
So how did she feel about finally meeting her idol? “It was the best 15 minutes of my life! I got to give my idol a hug and he picked me up! He pulled up a chair and sat beside me, he was so down to earth, so genuine, caring – just a great man. He made me feel so special. It is very rare for him to do meet and greets… He gave me concert memorabilia, and personalized 3 autographs for me. He asked how to spell my name… and I forgot! He just has that effect.” Many people are content with wishing, but Amanda asked, got help, and her dream came true, “It is feels surreal, I can’t believe it happened. So much more has come, it has brought just such international FA awareness. I’m the girl with FA that got to meet JT!”
“Living with a neuromuscular disorder is anything from easy, but don’t let it define you. Do the things you love and take it day by day. Live in the moment.”
So, what was Amanda’s take away from this whole experience? “I just want more awareness, for more information out there. I realize in order to create the life of my dreams I must continue to push forward. ‘If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,’ Martin Luther King Jr.”
If you want to see how much media attention Amanda and her story received, try typing “Amanda Renneberg” into Google. You’ll be there a while.
For more information on Friedreich’s Ataxia, click here.