Country star Laura Bell Bundy has always been an inspiration to 14-year-old Katie Vallance. Despite dealing with a life-threatening illness, the Kentucky teen dreams of becoming just like her idol and believes that if Bundy can make it, maybe she can too. Now, after meeting Bundy thanks to children’s charity Star Wishes for Children, Katie has renewed hope that dreams really do come true.
“Laura Bell was incredible and Katie is a bigger fan now than before,” says her mom Januarie Vallance. “She couldn’t stop smiling or talking about it. Laura is from Kentucky too, so Katie thinks that maybe she can be just like her one day.”
After years of struggling with severe epilepsy, Katie’s wish trip came at just the right time to restore her hope for the future.
Diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009, Katie tried medication after medication to control her seizures, but nothing seemed to work. After suffering a grand mal seizure, doctors upped Katie’s diagnosis to intractable epilepsy, and by 2012, she was suffering from over 100 seizures a day. Doctors implanted a pacemaker-like device to utilize vagus nerve stimulation, a technique that generates pulses of electricity at regular intervals. Since then, Katie dropped to having only a few seizures per week, a vast improvement in her quality of life.
As a result of her frequent seizures, Katie suffers from some short-term memory loss, but she doesn’t let that stop her from enjoying life. The compassionate and caring teen felt right at home when Star Wishes for Children granted her wish to visit Nashville. Her wish trip was packed full of authentic “country” activities and a meet-and-greet with Bundy. Katie also got to spend time with rising country star Noah Marler Garner.
First, was the experience Katie’s been waiting for, the meet-and-greet with Bundy. The pair met at a local café and bonded over shared experiences while discussing country music. Laura posed for photos and wrote Katie a personal note.
“It was so wonderful to meet Katie and hear about her life and journey,” said Bundy of the experience. “She’s a very bright and spirited young lady, and I have a feeling she could accomplish whatever she sets her mind on in life.”
After that exciting day, Katie was able to tour a few sights around Nashville and was surprised at dinner by Garner. She and Noah started a fast friendship that continued the next day when Noah took her to get “real” cowboy boots and spent the afternoon touring the city.
“Noah made my trip so, so very, very special,” Katie gushed.
Noah was especially moved by taking part in Katie’s wish experience.
“Working with Star Wishes for Children to help grant Katie’s wish is truly one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Noah said. “I think I’m the blessed one to be able to meet heroes like her. I want to do the best I can to bring happiness to the lives of more kids facing life-threatening illnesses.”
For Katie, this was the trip of a lifetime and one she’ll never forget. Katie and her family also enjoyed luxury accommodations, fun-filled dinners and other Nashville-area activities during her wish.
“Katie had an amazing and memorable time,” says her mom, Januarie Vallance.
Star Wishes for Children would like to thank the following sponsors that helped make Katie’s Nashville wish a once-in-a-lifetime experience: Laura Bell Bundy, Noah Marler Garner, Sheraton Music City Hotel, Wildhorse Saloon, Nashville Zoo, Jack’s BBQ, Pinewood Social, Nashville Shores Water park, Old Hickory Grill, Back Yard Burgers, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.