Grammy Night and Ashanti Sweep Weldon, School Pal Off Their FeetBy MICHELLE H. Le POIDEVIN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
WESTFIELD – Ten-year-old Westfielder, Whitney Weldon's appearance on the 45th Annual Grammy Awards last Sunday was more than a case of being at the right place at the right time. For five hours, Weldon waited patiently at Borders bookstore in the Watchung Square Mall for R&B superstar Ashanti (Douglas) to sign autographs. Whitney's copy of Scholastic magazine's
Spanish issue with Ashanti on the cover had caught the singer's eye. During a telephone interview from The Pingry School's Lower School in Short Hills, where Whitney is a fourth grader, she told The Westfield Leader and The Times that Ashanti wanted to know where she got the magazine edition. Ashanti's makeup artist took Whitney's telephone number and later spoke her mother, Hillary Weldon, who mentioned that the youngster suffered from FOP (fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva – a genetic condition which involves the transformation of muscle into bone, and later a second skeleton). Next, Ashanti's mother, Tina Douglas, contacted Mrs. Weldon and proposed the idea that Whitney might want to join the superstar for her onstage performance on Grammy night. Mrs. Weldon, who gleefully accepted the invitation, mentioned Whitney's best friend, Mackenzie Roach of Verona, whose father, Stephen Roach, died on 9/11 while raising funds for FOP and working to establish a fund for the condition. Basking in the Grammy afterglow, Whitney and Mackenzie, who is also a fourth grader at Pingry, chatted excitedly about their performance the evening before. Though Whitney had been under the weather the Friday before the performance, she joined Mackenzie in agreeing that though the rehearsals at Madison Square Garden were long and exhaustive, they were "fun" above all. Whitney, who said that she listens to a lot of different kinds of music, reported, "It was cool and exciting being on stage in front of thousands of people." While Ashanti sang "Dreams" off her self-titled CD, a string of youngsters, holding hands and dressed in different kinds of professional uniforms, piped in with their voices and wide grins, encircling the superstar to the end of her song. Both Whitney and Mackenzie sported doctor's uniforms, which were randomly assigned by costume/prop personnel.
"I got to say 'Hi!' to Ja Rule," revealed Whitney, adding that Nelly, Vanessa Carleton, John Mayer, 'NSYNC, Kelly Rowlands of inde-