The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 15, 2013

Murray: Mankato girl gets a Swift wish come true


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Being a journalist is one of those jobs where, because of the job, you end up meeting a lot of people. It is, quite frankly, the best part of the job, and one of the things that makes the low wages sufferable.

And every so often you meet someone who makes you thankful you just happened to be in the right place at the right time in this crazy world to have been able to meet someone really special.

Such is the case for me and a little girl named Madison Harbarth, a kid who looooooooves Taylor Swift.

You might remember this kid from an article I wrote in the Free Press last year. Or maybe not. Either way, here’s her story:

While still in utero, doctors discovered she had a rare disorder called sacral agenesis syndrome, which is characterized by abnormal development of the spine. The lower half of Madison’s body (including her feet, legs, tailbone and even her spine) didn’t completely develop. She’s been going to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for surgeries and assistive technology services since birth, where doctors continue to monitor her abnormally shaped spine.

She’s such an inspiration that Gillette’s used her in their “Cure Pity” campaign, an effort to change the way society looks at people with disabilities.

When I met Madison, I learned that her love for Taylor Swift was just as adorable as her piano playing, or the way she holds hands with her friends on the playground (she in her wheelchair, friend walking alongside). She knows all the diva’s songs. A poster of the music star hangs on the wall in her room.

And now she’s got something else she can hang in her room.

FOX News in the Twin Cities caught up with Madison after the Taylor Swift concert. It seems Madison got some private time before the show with her idol. When I watched that footage ... well ... I guess I got a little emotional.

It appears Madison had been granted a wish by the Kids Wish Network, which identifies needy kids and makes their wish come true. And anyone who knows Madison knows there would really only be one wish on her mind: to meet her idol, Taylor Swift.

Swift personalized an 8-by-10 photo with the inscription, “To Madison: You’re beautiful and perfect. Love, Taylor.”

Ever since a fateful fall concert at Garfield Elementary School several years ago, I’ve been OK with T-Swizzle, as the kids call her. I may not always be a fan of her songs, but anyone who can get a gym full of listless sixth-graders to belt out a song as their parents watched is OK by me. (No, she didn’t show up, obviously. But the kids that year persuaded the music teacher to let them sing “Love Song,” a rousing and loud rendition that salvaged a performance marred by kids falling off bleachers and one song that had to be stopped and restarted because of, well, suckiness.)

So Taylor’s been OK in my book. And now she just got a little better. In an age when pop stars are making news for all the wrong moves on stage, Taylor Swift is backstage quietly giving a little Mankato girl a moment she’ll never, ever forget.

Robb Murray is a Free Press staff writer. He can be reached at 344-6386 or rmurray@mankatofreepress.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @freepressRobb.