We all could do well to find something in life that we love as much as Ryan Blackwell loves the music of country-singer Garth Brooks.
No one will ever be surprised to see the 22-year-old Blackwell hunched over a music player, headphones placed firmly over ear, rocking back and forth to the sound of a country legend.
Since birth he has been surrounded by Garth’s sound. His mother, Roanne Kalkman, would listen to the music all the time as well, the taste of which quickly passed to Ryan.
“I started listening to him when [Ryan] was a baby. I just didn’t realize I was developing another fan in him,” she said.
Never content to just stand outside the fire, the family has been on a mission to see the singer live in concert for years.
And, perhaps thanks to a little Christmas magic, they have finally gotten their wish.
According to Jeannie Cramer, who is Ryan’s caregiver now after he moved from home when he was 19, Ryan told Santa Claus, while in Terrace, that he wanted anything Garth Brooks for Christmas.
Ryan folded his hands open for Santa like a book, his sign for Garth. (Brooks and books, get it?)
When they got home that night they learned of Garth’s run of shows in Las Vegas.
Ryan’s knowledge of Garth is extensive. Jeannie said Ryan will know which song of Garth’s is playing within about two notes. Roanne said that, in a busy restaurant, Ryan will pick out a Garth Brooks song playing on a background radio.
Getting tickets to this concert is amazing as they have been trying to get tickets since Ryan was eight years old.
Now that the task of getting to a concert is done, the next step will be to try, as best as they can, to get Ryan backstage to meet his idol, face-to-face.
That will come to a personal appeal to Garth’s entourage, and a letter sent to Ellen Degeneres and her television show. (Ellen is known for her philanthropy.)
Ryan himself is globally developmentally delayed. Those signs that he uses to communicate are essentially the only way he can speak to the world. There is no specific diagnosis for him, such as autism or Down syndrome.
Jeannie and Roanne say that Ryan will never get frustrated if his message isn’t getting across right away and is very good natured and spirited.
Even if the appeals to Ellen and Brooks himself go unanswered, at least taking him to the concert is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
“I would literally dream of the chance to take him and see his face as he watches a concert,” said Roanne.
All three are going for the trip, including Jeannie’s sister Karen.
Ryan is clearly excited just listening to the music on his headphones. Jeannie thinks Ryan will go “ballistic” when he can actually see Garth in person.
In fact, everyone had to turn Ryan away from watching a Garth Brooks performance on the television to tell him he was going to see him in concert.
His reaction was, understandably, enthusiastic.
When not listening to Garth Brooks music, Ryan has a busy life, where he works part time in the local cancer office with Jeannie, goes snowmobiling frequently and generally spends his time socializing; they say he never forgets the face of a person he meets.