Brynn Hennessey is heading to Hollywood later this month courtesy of Make-A-Wish Connecticut, but before she leaves she met her fans for photo ops and a press conference at Noble & Co. in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
Brynn Hennessey has a winning smile, a poised and self-assured manner far beyond that of most 13-year-olds, and the ambition to become an actress. Brynn also has cystic fibrosis.
Make-A-Wish Connecticut Marketing & Communications Manager Shayna Grassi said that Brynn’s wish was to go to Hollywood and become a celebrity.
She’s got an “official” Instagram account, and a hashtag #BrynnGoesBig, and when she arrived in West Hartford Center at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, in a limousine led by a police escort, nearly 200 fans were there to great her, waving signs, cheering, and snapping photos paparazzi style. Earlier in the morning she had a radio interview.
Brynn was dressed to impress (she said her navy lace dress was from Macy’s), with hair and makeup styled by Top Level Salon on LaSalle Road in West Hartford.
“Being a celebrity doesn’t mean just one day,” Grassi said, so in advance of Brynn’s trip to Hollywood with her family at the end of August, Make-A-Wish arranged the reception and press conference with the assistance of Carrie and Michael Ladden, owners of Noble & Co. and McLaddens and longtime supporters of the non-profit that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
When she gets to Hollywood, Brynn will film a commercial for Southwest Airlines, a Make-A-Wish partner, and the ad will air during NFL games.
“For a 13-year-old, this is huge,” Grassi said of the experience for Brynn, who is from Portland and a rising eighth-grader at Portland Middle School.
“This truly is quite an extraordinary event on quite a massive scale,” said Mike Hennessey, Brynn’s dad. “The overwhelming support has brought so much happiness to a young lady who has had so many challenges, especially lately.”
It wasn’t apparent from Brynn’s appearance, but her dad said that she had recently been hospitalized for a month, and the community’s support makes such a difference.
Make-A-Wish Connecticut President and CEO Pam Keogh was among the fans lining LaSalle Road. She said the organization had never granted a wish quite like this one.
“It means a lot,” said Brynn told the press, as she signed autographs autographs and posed for selfies. She smiled as someone snapped a photo of her holding a small dog that someone had brought.
“Cystic fibrosis, it’s a rare disease, but you wouldn’t even be able to tell I have CF,” she said.
Brynn said she was “bursting with joy” about her wish being granted, and said she has butterflies in her stomach.
“This is unbelievable. We’re so thankful. Thank you so, so much,” said Jennifer Hennessey, Brynn’s mom.
Inside Noble & Co., Brynn and her parents, and her younger brother Caden, took official questions from real and honorary members of the media who had been invited to the press conference portion of the event.
When asked why she had this particular wish, Brynn said confidently, “I thought that my personality was born for Hollywood.”
Her favorite part of the experience thus far: “Meeting you guys because you guys are such adoring fans. It’s amazing.”
Brynn’s hero: Her mom. “She always treats me like I don’t have CF,” Brynn said.
Brynn’s wish is not just a one-time thing. She really does have aspirations to become an actress and recently participated in a performing arts camp. She said she’d love to branch out into film, and never gets nervous speaking in front of others.
If the acting doesn’t pan out, Brynn’s other career aspirations are to be an entrepreneur or a marine biologist.
In the meantime, Brynn will head to Hollywood for a week, and then return to her “normal” life in Portland, going to school, playing soccer and basketball, dancing in her bedroom, singing in the shower, and acting. And getting twice-daily treatments for cystic fibrosis.
“Not many people really know about cystic fibrosis,” Brynn said. She’d like to change that and raise awareness of the disease that while serious, “doesn’t really stop me from continuing my life.”
“I don’t want anyone to think that just because you have CF you can’t do anything,” Brynn said. She noted that Grace Rose, a 14-year-old with cystic fibrosis, has formed her own clothing line, Rosie G, and uses the business to raise awareness and funds to fight the disease.
“Thank you for supporting Brynn and her wish today,” Mike Hennessey told the crowd. He said it’s really heartwarming as she continues to fight and continues her journey.
“She’s not a celebrity in my house,” he added, noting that Brynn still needs to make her bed and pick up her dirty laundry. “She’s really excited but her mom and I will keep her grounded.”
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