SARCOXIE, Mo. – Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a big dream will soon come true for one Sarcoxie teenager who lives with cystic fibrosis.
Kenzie Chrisman, 17, will be a senior at Sarcoxie High School this year and is a part of the Bear jazz band. During a recent visit to Kansas City for a medical checkup, the teen was approached by Make-A-Wish representatives for the second time and was asked what her dream is. Kenzie wished for a trip to see Billy Joel live in concert. Her first wish to see the legendary musician did not come to fruition due to timing issues.
The teenager will now fly to New York City in September, on an all-expense-paid trip to see her greatest musical influence at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m very excited,” Kenzie told The Heartlander. “I’ve waited a long time, and I got my hopes up a few times, but things just did not work out. Now it is coming true, and I am happy I get to have this experience.”
Kenzie says she has never traveled that far east before and is excited to have the opportunity to do some extra exploring while in the Big Apple. She hopes to visit the Minecraft Museum (it’s a video game) or see the Statue of Liberty.
She also hopes to witness Joel’s soundcheck the day of the concert and to meet Joel himself. The teen says her ultimate dream would be to write a song with her hero or to sit down for a one-on-one chat.
Kenzie says she isn’t sure where her seats are located for the show, but hopes she will be close to the stage. The young musician began preparing a song to introduce to Mr. Joel but says she has scrapped some of the ideas she had written down.
“I wasn’t sure if the Billy Joel thing was going to happen. So, anytime I would think about what the song would be, I just froze and did not want to face it.”
The Sarcoxie senior loves playing acoustic guitar, bass guitar, piano and harmonica in her spare time and at church. Her major influences in the music world are Elton John, Dire Straits, jazz pianist Red Garland and none other than the great Billy Joel.
Kenzie feels Joel’s music has been such an influence in her life that it has become a part of her and her own music. The teen says her nerves feel intertwined with every note and she can feel the music in her hands.
“Billy Joel really makes that come out in me. That is why I like him so much.”
Kenzie tells The Heartlander she wheezed a lot growing up and had major issues with CF, but music has always furnished an outlet to keep her mind off the bigger struggles. In times of trouble, Kenzie always turned to her guitar or piano and says she has never felt like an outcast.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder which affects cells that produce mucus, digestive juices and sweat. CF causes each of these fluids to become more thick and sticky. The fluids plug ducts, essential passageways and tubes within the body. Symptoms often include inability to gain weight properly and coughing and lung complications such as infection. The disease is considered a life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs, pancreas and digestive system.
“I never felt different. I never let stuff like CF make me feel like I didn’t belong. It’s just one more unique thing about me. I feel proud of myself for dealing with CF the way I do, and I’m so grateful God has given me these opportunities to really show what I’ve got.”
In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a breakthrough drug for patients with CF. Trikafta was introduced to treat patients with the most common cystic fibrosis mutation. The drug was first approved for those 12 years or older, but is now available to children from 2 to 5 years old. Kenzie says the medication has given her a new shake in life, and her lung function has been much better since starting Trikafta.
Kenzie says she actually enjoys running, and with the help of her new medication she can now run more often.
“I haven’t done a treatment in two years because the Trikafta is working so well. Sometimes I’ll go out and I’ll run just to feel better. Just because Trikafta is working doesn’t mean I have to sit at home.”
The aspiring musician says her ultimate goal is to attend Drury University in Springfield to join the jazz program and earn a degree in nutrition. Drury shares the same mascot with Kenzie’s elementary school in Avilla – the panthers – and she says she feels a connection.
“I really want to be in their jazz program. I also want to do something in human nutrition. Eating the right food interests me. I do think it is because of my CF.”
To learn more about cystic fibrosis, visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website.