Viral photo from North Dakota State Fair spreads uplifting message

This photo was captured during the Weezer performance Saturday, July 27, at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot. It shows a group of friends holding up a woman in a wheelchair for her to better see the stage.

MINOT, N.D. — Ashlyn Kelley certainly embodied the state's "Be Legendary" slogan on her first-ever trip to North Dakota.

Kelley, 25, lives in Temecula, Calif. A few months ago she booked a flight to Minot to visit her best friend whose husband is stationed at the Air Force base.

They also got tickets months in advance for the North Dakota State Fair to see the rock band Weezer on Saturday, July 27. But three weeks before the trip, Kelley opened her car hatchback and a bowling ball fell on her right foot, breaking her big toe.

Kelley remained committed to the trip and concert, getting her hands on a wheelchair to assist in the festivities. "I wasn't going to miss Weezer," she said Monday before her return flight home.

Her best friend Daley Henderson's husband, Devin, and a couple of strangers offered to hoist Kelley up during an entire song, "Undone — The Sweater Song."

"I told the guys repeatedly I'm so grateful for that. It was unexpected, wonderful," she said. "I'm happy that other people are happy about it."

The uplifting moment is garnering a lot of attention online.

A photo taken by Kate Marthaler, of Minot, was shared on Facebook and has since received 1,000 likes and has been shared more than 800 times.

Marthaler said she was attending the concert with her fiance, Phil, when they saw a group of strangers in front of them put Kelley and her wheelchair on their shoulders so she could have a better view of the stage.

"I just got to be a witness," Marthaler said. "It was a blessing in my life."

The 40-year-old mother of four and grandmother of two thought it was a teaching moment for her kids, and wanted to share it with more people.

"I posted it because I like to push out that positive energy," she said. "I love what it stands for. It reaches anybody and speaks to anyone and gives people hope.... I shared because it was in my heart and watching that filled my heart."

Marthaler said the message is more than supporting people physically and goes beyond Minot or North Dakota. Anyone can do what the group did, she added, and you don't have to know someone's story or struggle to make them feel like they belong.

She said the whole experience has been surreal — a feeling that's shared by Kelley who's still taken aback by her trip ending with the viral, emotional moment.

"It's really powerful for other people to see something like that," she said. "Little things go a long way. Thinking about other people and what you can do for them is very important and can go a long way. These acts of kindness are going on. This one was a pretty grand gesture."

In hindsight, Kelley said jokingly, "Maybe I was meant to break my toe to get a new perspective."

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