Allison Dickson is no stranger to the spotlight.
Dickson, who has lived all her life with both spinal muscular dystrophy and a remarkable can-do spirit, has tackled and finished college (including sorority life), Baylor Law School and numerous high-dollar fundraisers.
But this time her relentless hard work produced a most unlikely — and headline generating — result: an encounter with country music superstar Willie Nelson.
That occurred March 11 in Belton, Texas.
“We spent five to 10 minutes with Willie, and then he took the stage to a sold-out crowd and gave an awesome show,” says Dickson, who lives in nearby Temple.
Dickson worked diligently to arrange the meeting. Those efforts began back around the end-of-year holidays when she learned Nelson would be performing close to home.
“I knew this concert in my backyard was likely my one best chance to make it happen,” she says.
But she ran into roadblocks.
“I kept being told ‘no. He doesn’t do meet-and-greets. He’s not seeing anyone before shows.’”
But it was her dream to meet Nelson and it came a step closer to happening when she crossed paths with Nelson’s daughter, Paula.
In comments emailed to Baptist News Global, Dickson shared about the experience, how the meeting finally happened and how it’s affected her life.
How did you come to meet Paula Nelson?
She contacted me on Facebook shortly after the new year. She introduced herself and said that her co-worker at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Charlie Monk, (they are both DJs for Willie’s Roadhouse) had received the information about me and passed it on to her. She read about me and wanted to help make this dream of mine come true.
Where was the meeting held and how long did it last?
The meeting was held backstage prior to his concert … at the Bell County Expo Center. It is the Expo Center’s 30th anniversary, and they are having a concert series to celebrate. (Interestingly enough, I was at their very first concert — the Osmonds.)… That’s where we mostly hung out and visited with Paula while we waited for his bus to arrive. He had played a show in Mississippi the night before.
What was Willie like? What did you talk about?
Willie couldn’t have been nicer. I was a bit nervous, but the minute I saw him and he came up to me, held my hand, and kissed my forehead, I knew he was a kind man with a good heart and felt at ease. I thanked him for taking the time to meet me and be there. He signed some autographs for me. He taught me how to roll … a bandana. I think my mom and I invited him to visit anytime he was in Temple. I told him my favorite song was “Always On My Mind,” and if he sang it that night I’d know it was for me (he did!). I gave him gifts and we talked about those. We posed for pictures and the crowd was calling for him, so he had to go. Afterwards we sat stage left for the show in the family and friends section — front row.
What is it that draws you to his music?
His music is relatable. It’s diverse. It’s entertainment but it also touches your heart. He sings about real life — whether it’s love, love gone wrong, or just wanting to have a little fun. There’s something that draws everyone in, and his unique voice and style has made him a legend. After meeting him, I also believe his heart and spirit have helped solidify his iconic status along the way.
Paula Nelson described the two of you as soul sisters – how did that happen so quickly?
Paula and I had an instant connection. She’s real, caring and a truly special spirit. Shortly after connecting on Facebook, we traded cell phone numbers and have texted regularly since. Although the concert was the first time we met in person, I think we both felt we already knew each other. We’re planning another girls’ night, hopefully soon.
What kind of gifts did you give?
I knew the Nelson family had, or could acquire, anything they wanted, so I wanted to think outside the box and seek custom, unique items. I hoped to showcase the talent we have in Central Texas and give Willie and Paula something to remember their time here and with me. I reached out to local artists and craftspeople, and the response was amazing.
How did all of this impact you?
This entire experience — from the initial attempts to make it happen to the continued interest — has been incredible. I’m just a girl who had a dream I wasn’t willing to give up on, and with faith and perseverance that dream came true. I also saw the kindness of others in that they shared in the excitement and were truly happy I was able to have this experience. I hope I can help others realize that if they have a dream, go for it. If they’re told it’s not possible, keep trying anyway. If you have a passion, follow it. As one of my sports heroes Jimmy V. said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” That doesn’t apply just to hoping to meet a music icon. It applies to everything. Live life to the fullest and love one another with all you have.