Valpo man gets chance to see his favorite band, KISS, perform live

Valparaiso resident Robert "Stevie" McMeans prepares to see KISS perform in concert. He is pictured with Nancy Nielsen, customer care coordinator at the Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation Center.

Deborah Laverty, Times Correspondent

VALPARAISO — Robert "Stevie" McMeans doesn't keep secret his love of the rock group, KISS.

His face lights up when the group's name is mentioned, and his room at Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation Center is decorated with KISS posters and memorabilia.

McMeans, 72, often sings out loud some of the group's hits, including "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night."

"I love the band," McMeans said.

McMeans, a KISS logo-fitted hat on his head and a photo of the group in hand, was readying on Friday for his limo ride to see the group perform at the Chicago Open Air Festival held at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

The trip to see his favorite band in person was courtesy of the Indiana Chapter of the Twilight Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to those 65 and older or those residing in an adult-care facility, according to Nancy Nielsen, the center's customer care coordinator.

"Stevie is so excited he just can't stop talking about it. His story, along with his picture, was sent to the band. We're hoping maybe he'll get a chance to meet the band. That would be the dream of a lifetime," Nielsen said.

Naomi Lee, a certified nursing assistant at the center, knew of McMeans' passion for KISS and came up with the idea of trying to take him to a concert, Nielsen said.

Nielsen went online to see if the group was performing in the area and found out that a KISS concert was scheduled for Friday.

"I wrote a proposal and they (Twilight Wish Foundation) granted it," Nielsen said.

McMeans, who grew up in Fort Wayne, said this wasn't his first time seeing KISS in concert.

He recalled another concert when a young woman named Beth was singled out and serenaded to the song "Beth."

"Peter Criss sang the song to her," McMeans said.

Nielsen, one of three individuals who will be attending the concert with McMeans, said they will be given VIP treatment and McMeans will be allowed to sit toward the front in his wheelchair.

McMeans, who hopes to meet the group, also has plans of buying a necklace and a ring at the concert.

"You are going to shop?" Nielsen kidded McMeans.

Sunee Fleshman, who serves as the Indiana state director of the Twilight Wish Foundation, said she was touched by the request from Nielsen to send McMeans to see his favorite group.

"We always love the stories that touch the heart, and he has made a huge impression on those at the center. We want to honor him and the people who work with him," Fleshman said.

Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation Center is operated by American Senior Communities, which serves as the sponsor for the nonprofit Twilight Wish Foundation Indiana Chapter.

Fleshman said that her state chapter, which was formed three years ago, has met around five wish requests this year, including those for such things as wheelchairs, lift chairs and other appliances.

For more information about the requests, go to twilightwish.org

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