Thursday (Oct. 12) might be the sixth birthday for Spirit Lake, Iowa, resident Garrett Goodell, but his present came last weekend thanks to singer-and-ukulele star Grace VanderWaal.
During her performance on the HomeAway stage at Austin City Limits Music Festival, VanderWaal took a moment out of her set to sing happy birthday to Goodell, a super fan of the singer since hearing her in January. Goodell, whose parents brought him to Austin specifically to see VanderWaal, has epilepsy and Saerthe-Chotzen Syndrome, which causes premature fusion of some skull bones and can delay development.
“He discovered her on YouTube in January and ever since then all he does is watch her videos all the time,” Garrett’s mother, Tobi Goodell, said Sunday after the concert. “You couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face when he saw her. We first told him about this a month ago and I don’t think it really sunk it for him, that it wouldn’t be her on an iPad.”
The Goodells received VIP passes and were able to meet VanderWaal and her family at the festival.
“She was so down to earth,” Goodell said. “It was a nice thing for Garrett because he got to sing to her and then she got to sing to him. He’s already asked when we can see her again, but it looks like all of her concerts are sold out.”
Goodell was complimentary toward the festival and the family’s experience in general, but the family had to leave shortly after their time with VanderWaal because excessive heat increases the chance of Garrett having a seizure.
Through a publicist, VanderWaal said she was grateful to meet a devoted fan like Garrett.
“Meeting Garrett was so sweet. He was adorable and I couldn’t believe how much he knew about my music. He even has his own Maxi Sloosh!!!! (ukulele). He is a hard-core fan and I’m so glad I got the meet him. He and his family were so kind and sweet. I am so happy I was able to include his special day into my set and spend time with him.”