The hard truth is that Melissa has just been diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Essentially, it causes all the motor neurons in the brain to shut down, gradually making the muscles unable to function. It’s very rare (1 in 1 Million) for someone who’s only 34 years old to come down with this, as it mainly affects people between 50 and 70. Life expectancy is 3-5 years from diagnosis, and there is no cure. (She’s had the disease for about a year already.) The disease progressively takes away movement and coordination. In September, she marched with fellow LotR fans in the annual DragonCon parade. Six months later, she is barely walking, and needs help to climb stairs or get dressed. She has a son, Matthew, who just turned six.
She is excited about the filming of "The Hobbit" sequels, but was apprehensive about the release dates of 2010 and 2011: She doesn’t even know if she’ll still be alive when these movies are released. Her husband, Chris "Bill the Pony" Kern, told her to make that her goal : to be around to see these films in the theater. But it is uncertain how this disease will go.
Chris wanted to do something for Melissa, to show her the impact that she's had on people, in the Lord of the Rings communities and beyond. To that end, he's put together a petition online. He's calling it "Project FIVER" (after her name on the community websites), and it is a petition to have New Line cast her as a Hobbit extra in THE HOBBIT. They don't know the course her disease will take, so she worries that she won't be around to see the movies in theaters, so this was the next best thing.
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