Melissa "Fiver" Kern 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, and there is no cure. (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. We have a son, Matthew, who just turned six.
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.
I don't personally know her all that well, but I did meet her at Dragon*Con two years ago. She's a very cool person and very deserving of this if it can happen.