By the Way

How The Band Perry forever changed the life of an Ocean Springs teen

The Band Perry meets Josh Williams

#MS200 The Band Perry superfan Josh Williams meets The Band Perry before their concert at the Mississippi Bicentennial in Gulfport.
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#MS200 The Band Perry superfan Josh Williams meets The Band Perry before their concert at the Mississippi Bicentennial in Gulfport.

The Band Perry played an energetic headlining set Saturday night at Centennial Plaza to close out a near-perfect two-day Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South.

When the band opened the show with “Better Dig Two,” you knew it was going to be a solid show. And at the risk of using superlatives, it was, indeed, a great show.

But for me the show paled in comparison to what happened before and what I now think about the Perrys — Kimberly, Reid and Neil — as people.

On Saturday, they showed they are kind and compassionate.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Josh Williams, of Ocean Springs, and his family. Josh is 14 and he's an amazing guy who was born with trisonomy 21, commonly known as Down Syndrome.

But this doesn’t mean Josh has a disability. It means he is what I like to call “wonderfully gifted.”

I say this not to make light of the condition with which Josh was born, but to praise him for living as close to a normal life as he can. His ability to love on a higher plane doesn’t limit him. It’s what sets him apart.

And Josh loves The Band Perry.

On Saturday night, Josh was able to see the band live for the first time. That would have been exciting enough for Josh. But because of some advanced planning from the band’s amazing tour manager, Danielle Broome, Josh got even more. He and his family had the opportunity to meet the band before the show.

Once Josh and his family arrived at Centennial Plaza, he was a nervous ball of energy as he awaited 6 p.m. — the time when his dream of meeting the TBP would come true.

Josh was the first person to meet with TBP and he got his own private meet and greet with them.

Seriously, Gov. Phil Bryant, people from the Mississippi Development Authority and other very important people waited patiently in line while Josh met the band first.

Kimberly, Reid and Neil were all very kind and warm to Josh as he hugged them over and over. They met with his parents, I spoke with them, Josh gave everyone one more hug and that was that.

A kind, sweet young man saw one of his dreams fulfilled.

But the hugging was far from over. Gov. Bryant got a hug and Elvis got a hug and Saints great Deuce McAllister got a hug, as did Gulfport's Chris Vignes and David Parker and the Sun Herald's John Fitzhugh. The evening was a “lovefest” perpetuated by Josh.

Another thing Josh really loves — besides The Band Perry and music and hugging — is dancing. He loves to dance and it is something at which he excels.

My last image of The Band Perry was of Josh dancing the night away as he enjoyed their performance. When I was leaving, we made eye contact and we smiled and waved goodbye. I certainly hope that I see my friend Josh again soon.

I think that everyone who was in the presence of his love and kindness Saturday night walked away a better person.

Thank you, The Band Perry. Your kindness will not be forgotten.

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