The Boston Pops are always a night of celebratory fun and good memories, but for one family, this year’s event will stand out as a bit more special than any other.
Ten-year-old Abagail McCall has undergone over a dozen brain surgeries in her short life as part of treatment for a rare condition known as hydrocephalus. In hydrocephalus, fluid builds up in cavities within the brain and exerts pressure, which can cause brain damage and even lead to death.But earlier this month on August 13th, for a brief moment, Abagail was just a 10-year-old kid in the front row at the Boston Pops, dancing in pure joy as the music of rock band Queen blasted from the speakers.
“It was amazing,” said her mother, Melissa Kopolow. “I don’t even have words for how amazing it was.”
Abagail has always loved Queen. She learned to walk from the rhythm of the band’s anthem “We Will Rock You,” and her mother described music as her favorite thing in the world. So listening to their songs performed live in concert was a dream come true for Abagail.
And it was all thanks to Make-A-Wish. The non-profit organization, known for granting wishes to children with critical, life-threatening illnesses, helped arrange the family’s magical trip to Nantucket.
“The Make-A-Wish organization is really phenomenal. They really take it very seriously,” Kopolow said.
When Abagail first had the opportunity to make a wish, she was learning to play the ukulele, and given her love for the beach and swimming, a trip to Hawaii seemed to make perfect sense.
That was until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Make-A-Wish canceled all trips that involved airplanes.
Undeterred, the family searched for an alternative and eventually learned about the upcoming Boston Pops concert on Nantucket set to feature Marc Martel singing Queen’s greatest hits.
They could drive to Massachusetts from their home in D.C. and then take the boat to Nantucket, eliminating the need for a plane. Make-A-Wish loved the idea.
The family rented a Jeep for a day on the car-sharing app Turo to explore the island, and when they realized they wouldn’t be able to get home from the Pops the next night, the car’s owner let them keep it for the rest of their trip, free of charge. They found housing despite the chaos of Nantucket in August. Everything was coming together.
Until they arrived at the concert.
“[Abagail] was sobbing, it was too much stimulation, it was too crowded...she was incredibly unhappy,” Kopolow said. “I was really sad.”
Kopolow took Abagail to the nearby Jetties Beach playground, where she calmed down and made friends with the paramedic and photographers in the parking lot at the back of the event.
The event’s hosts were very accommodating as well. “Elisabeth (Percelay), is in a ballgown hosting this event and when she heard Abagail was upset she left all of her guests and the Pops to find us in the parking lot,” Kopolow said.
As the night wore on, Abagail warmed up and started dancing in the parking lot. And then Marc Martel took the stage.
“Everything changed,” Kopolow said. “She pushed her way to the front row...she was awestruck. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The crowd let her through and cheered her on as she danced, letting her live out her dream.
“It was truly the best of humanity,” Kopolow said.
Inspired by that magical night, Kopolow and her partner, Michael Lewis, decided it was time for them to do something magical as well — get married.
“We’d been planning to get married, but we had no wedding date or anything,” Kopolow said.
Under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t have been able to pull it off before they had to leave the island, but Nantucket Town Clerk Nancy Holmes was so touched by their story that she hand-delivered the marriage license on Sunday morning despite the clerk’s office being closed.
Abagail’s caretaker, Antonio Ferrari, got a 24-hour license to officiate at their wedding, and with just the two children in attendance—Abagail and her twin brother, Asher McCall—they got married at Brant Point at sunset.
“It happened so fast,” Kopolow said, “but it just felt as natural as natural gets. It was just how it was supposed to be, but we didn’t know until the time.”
As if confirming that it was meant to be, they even accidentally ended up with a wedding photographer. A teenage girl who had been sitting by the lighthouse when they arrived took over a hundred pictures of their wedding and sent them to Kopolow afterwards.