Reidun Vevelstad is Celine Dion’s biggest fan in the community named for Vevelstad’s family in northern Norway.
Not such a big deal, as only 400 people live in the tiny farming hamlet.
But Reidun is also Celine’s biggest fan in the country, the region and — likely — anywhere in the world.
At age 18, Reidun has for years suffered from spina bifida. She is confined to a wheelchair. Her greatest joy is listening to Celine’s music and watching her videos.
“Her biggest dream has been to go to one of her concerts and meet her,” her mother, Sigrid, says. “She says that this is a bigger dream than to be able to walk. That was her dream before she discovered Celine Dion.”
Two years ago, almost to the day, Reidun spent all of her savings for tickets to a Celine show at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Her family pitched in, too, to fulfill this lifelong promise. They booked a Wednesday performance, and also reserved flights to Vegas and hotel rooms at Caesars Palace.
Sigrid wrote a letter to Celine through an artist friend hers who knows Veronica Bocelli, wife of opera icon and frequent Celine duet partner Andrea Bocelli. The email simply asked for time with Celine at the show’s meet-and-greet, if possible, or a visit from her during the actual performance.
In that letter, Sigrid told of her then-16-year-old daughter’s condition and said, “She’s been dreaming that you will come up to her seat so she can give you a hug,” and listed the family’s seat numbers for the performance.
In the organizing of the visit, Sigrid’s e-mail was sent by Bocelli’s camp to Larry Ruvo and Michael Severino of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
It is not a far stretch that Severino and Ruvo would be looped into such an experience. They are both well-connected to concert promoters AEG Live (which produces Celine’s show) and Caesars Entertainment officials, along with Bocelli and Celine, who have performed at the annual Keep Memory Alive Power of Love fundraising gala. All was set for the great event.
But sadly, in the face of these plans, Celine was forced to cancel that night’s show because of the viral infection she suffered in November 2016. Severino stepped in and arranged for the family to extend their stay to see Celine perform a couple nights later. But that rescheduled show, too, was called off. Reidun was thus 0-for-2 in her attempts to meet her idol.
Undaunted, Severino recalibrated the plans and set up the family to see Britney Spears at Zappos Theater instead. Not a bad consolation prize.
But Reidun never let go of her dream, a real dream she experienced nightly, to meet Celine. The family once more connected with Ruvo and Severino, who again arranged for Reidun visit to Celine’s show on Nov. 2. This time, the pop superstar and long-running Strip headliner was onstage as scheduled.
Before the performance, during dinner at The Palm Restaurant, Reidun said, “I am just so nervous,” and that she’d had anxiety throughout the day leading to her meeting with Celine. She said she’d been having a recurring dream that she was sitting with her idol, “Then I wake up, and she’s not there.”
Finally, before the show, the group — Reidun, Sigrid and Sigrid’s sister, Elin Vevelstad — was led backstage to meet Celine. This third attempt was indeed magic. Sigrid introduced her daughter, and Celine leaned down to say, “I am so sorry to have canceled. But I am here now.”
Reidun halted, barely able to whisper, “Hello,” but Celine continued, “You don’t need to speak. I can hear you. You are talking to me through your eyes. I know that you have had some troubles, but I am with you. I am in your heart. Always know this. You have my love.”
Reidun managed, “I love you too. Can I have a hug?” And she got the hug she’s been dreaming about.
The room was otherwise silent. As the group dispersed, and Celine caught one more glance from her guest, and clutched her right fist over her heart.
During the show that followed, Celine gave her typically transcendent performance. Reidun recorded the entire experience, on her phone and her mother’s.
At the end, I moved to Reidun and leaned in to ask how she felt.
She smiled, held up her phone and said, “I have her with me forever.”