Despite being largely overlooked by the show's producers, American Idol contestant Elliott Yamin nonetheless won over a legion of fans with spirited performances this spring. Last weekend, he helped one special fan's dream come true.
The singer, who finished in third place in the most recent season, took time during the American Idols Live tour stop in his native Richmond, Va., to hang out backstage with Amanda Jones, a die-hard fan who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
To the left is a picture of them that appears on People magazine's website.
Jones, 19, from Jonesboro, Ark., received her diagnosis just two weeks ago, and immediately had two questions for her doctors:
-- Is the disease curable?
-- Could she go to Richmond to see American Idols Live?
"I had to see my Idol in his hometown," says Jones, who not only made it to Richmond on Saturday night, but -- thanks to a connection through a Yamin fan forum -- nabbed a backstage pass from a friend of Yamin's who'd heard about Jones' diagnosis.
She was ecstatic.
"He is, by far, one of the sweetest people I ever met. He was rubbing my back and told me not to worry and that everything would be okay," Jones said.
In May, Jones camped out at Graceland in nearby Memphis to catch a glimpse of him when the top Idol contenders visited Elvis' former home. Now, she says, Yamin has become her inspiration. A true Idol -- regardless of what the voters decided on the third-to-last episode.
"He's my hero. He went through so much in his childhood, struggled through so much, and in the end, he came out on top. That's what I pray and hope I can do," she said.
Yamin, 28, suffers from Type 1 diabetes and is 90 percent deaf in his right ear. After a series of ear infections during his childhood, and ear-drum replacement surgery at 13, he says his hearing hasn't been right. As for his ability to sing in spite of that?
"I don't know how to explain it, because I'm not a religious person. It's a gift," he told People in March.
Backstage at the Richmond show, Yamin, who is expected to sign a record contract in the near future signed Jones's program, writing:
"Amanda, thank you for all your support. I thank you for driving a long way to see us. God bless you, sweetheart."
In return, Jones gave Elliott a card and a LiveStrong bracelet. As she turned to leave, Yamin hugged her one more time.
"That just boosted me up," Jones said. "I forgot I was the kid with leukemia."