March 11, 2008

*Project Fiver* goes Public

Many of you may know my wife, Melissa Kern. She has helped out with the Tolkien and Young Adult Literature tracks at DragonCon. She even appeared in a well-known DragonCon TV commercial.

Mel has been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien since she read The Hobbit as a child, and has always loved books. Her heart leaped when she saw the preview for Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Lord of the Rings, and she has been involved in organizing like-minded "Ringers" in the Southeast for many years now.

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. (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 my help to climb stairs or get dressed.

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. I told her to make that her goal : to be around to see these films in the theater. But we don’t know how this disease will go.

The goal of PROJECT FIVER is to deliver a petition to Peter Jackson, New Line, and whoever takes the Directorship, asking that Melissa be cast as a costumed hobbit extra in the film. Even if she’s not there when the movies are released, just being part of the production of The Hobbit, even if it’s just sitting at a table in the background, will absolutely mean the world to her. It would be her reason to hang on.

Melissa has done an incredible amount to promote Tolkien Fellowship. She has been a key member of the Tolkien Track at DragonCon for several years, and has also volunteered with the Young Adult Literature track there. She has been an active member on, co-leader of and member of numerous LotR-Related Moots, and Meet-Up groups in the Atlanta area. Additionally, she has helped organize local Release Parties for the Harry Potter books and coordinated with movie theaters to have a crew of costumed Pirates raise money for the AMC Stars of Hope Charity at the Pirates of the Caribbean movie premieres. Many in these groups have been asking what they can do to help her out and lift her spirits, and PROJECT FIVER is my best answer.

If you wouldn't mind, please Go to and sign the petition.

This petition has been going on in secret for a couple of weeks, and I just revealed it to her this weekend at her birthday party. Over 1000 people have already signed it, and she was moved to tears. We have "Gone Public" with this now, so feel free to share the link with others openly.

I have just added a blog on the site, and I will keep posting developments. Thanks for helping us out.