Crowdfunding and Sigur Rós combine to bring a disabled young fan to Iceland
A particularly heart-warming story made the rounds recently when a crowdfunding campaign called “Pippa’s Wish” hit its required target, after a month online. The GoFundMe campaign was started by family friend Tamara Antonelli Comerford to take Pippa—a disabled seven-year-old Sigur Rós fan from Missouri, who suffered a stroke at birth that left her with Cerebral Palsy, among other medical conditions—on the family holiday of a lifetime.
During an extended convalescence after an operation to reshape her pelvis and straighten her legs, Pippa was in severe pain, but responded with fascination to the soothing beauty of Sigur Rós’ tour documentary ‘Heima’, becoming increasingly curious about the band, and Iceland itself. One thing led to another, and when Sigur Rós got wind of the campaign, they gave a $5,000 contribution and an invaluable publicity boost that led to the campaign smashing its $25,000 target, which covers flights, travel, rental of a handicapped-friendly vehicle, and other associated expenses.
We caught up with her Pippa’s mother, Megan Alethea Brown Hull, to find out how the whole thing got started.
“WHAT IS JÓNSI TALKING ABOUT?”
How did you guys first discover Sigur Rós?
We used to live in Savannah, Georgia, where my husband, Kevin, and I met when we were in college. There was a record store there (which we later owned) around the corner from the tattoo shop where my husband worked. One day in 1999, he walked into the store and bought ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ based on the cover art alone. He completely fell in love with Sigur Rós, and we have been listening to them and loving them ever since.
What do you think it is about Sigur Rós’ music that caught Pippa’s attention, and spoke to her?
Pippa has always responded to music since she was a newborn. She was in the hospital for a month after she was born, and I went to the hospital for several hours every day, and would sing to her. One day at home, my husband started dancing to the Sigur Rós song “Gobbledigook” with Pippa in his arms. That was the first time she really had a big belly laugh. We never lived anywhere that Sigur Rós played until we moved to Kansas City, where we were able to see them for the first time. Pippa waved her arms around as if she was conducting the band. My fears about the volume and lights were totally unfounded—the louder and flashier it was, the happier she was!
What response did you see from her during her illness, watching ‘Heima’ or listening to Sigur Rós’ music?
After Pippa’s hip surgery in March, she was in horrible pain. She was on pain medicine, but any movement was still painful for her. She cried and moaned in pain almost constantly. While we were sitting there one day, I thought I would put in ‘Heima’ to see if it would hold her interest and maybe distract her from her pain. It was the first time after surgery that she paid any attention to what was on TV. She stopped crying, and instead started asking me about Iceland, pointing out the people and the mountains and waterfalls. She asked me to tell her the names of each of the songs. In the interview segments, she would ask me, “What is Jónsi talking about? Is that Orri? Does he play drums? Does Georg have cats?”
What quality do you think made it leap out for her, and have that effect on her?
I know that every parent thinks their child is special—and they are right!—and both of my children are amazing. My 15-year-old son is the most serene person. He just floats through life. As for Pippa, there is something about her that is magical. People are drawn to her, want to be around her, and recognize something extraordinary in her that we can’t even put into words. I think the same quality is in Sigur Rós’s music. We feel it, and I know that she feels it. There is something in their music that speaks to her soul.
“IT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER, AND HAPPY.”
Do you know how did the band heard about the GoFundMe campaign, and did that publicity change things?
Auður of IHeartReykjavik.com posted a link to the fundraiser on her Facebook page, and then we found out later that she had emailed some news outlets in Iceland. The first news story about the fundraiser came out Friday morning (September 26), and then things totally took off. Then on Friday afternoon, Sigur Rós donated $5,000. I was in a meeting at work when Tamara, my friend who is running the fundraiser, texted me to tell me the news. Without even thinking about the alarm it would cause, my hand flew over my mouth and I started welling up with tears. My boss thought something horrible had happened so I had to quickly catch my breath and squeak out, “It’s okay! It’s a good thing!” Then we and our friends and family spent the weekend just watching the donations add up. At that point, the fundraiser had been up for a month and we had donations from our fantastic family and friends and a few strangers (with no publicity in the US or even our own city at all). Suddenly, we had hundreds of new friends from all over.
How has it been to be thrust into the spotlight via the campaign going somewhat viral?
Let’s just say that I don’t think that my skin is thick enough for the spotlight! There have been some unpleasant comments on Sigur Rós’s Facebook page, and I really felt like I had to defend them because what they did for us came from a place of love. They don’t know us from Adam, but they believe in my daughter’s dream and that makes us friends. I defend my friends as fiercely as I defend my children. I finally had to step away from the thread, which is sad as I probably missed a lot of positive comments because those definitely outnumbered the negative.
I didn’t know what to expect when Tamara, our personal fundraising angel, started this whole project. I figured we would get a trickle of donations over several months and maybe a larger donation here and there. Instead, we have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of people all over the world who were touched by Pippa’s story. We are so grateful for the kindness shown to us by complete strangers, as well as the people that already know and love us.
Could you ask Pippa a couple of questions for us—how Sigur Rós’ music makes her feel, and what she’s looking forward to about Iceland?
It’s very hard even for me to get Pippa to answer questions like this. She just puts her hands up in the air and shrugs to say “I don’t know!” But she answered “How does the music make you feel?” with: “It makes me feel better, and happy.” And when I asked, “What do you look forward to seeing in Iceland?” she said that she is excited to see waterfalls, and to go swimming. She also said: “I want to see my boys, I miss them.”
The campaign has reached its goal and since closed, and the family will visit Iceland in November.