The Ashland Beacon
Anytime that you ask Karina McBride who her favorite singer is, she doesn’t hesitate to say, “Jeff Bates!” Karina has always loved the country singer and has been following him for years. Anytime that Bates has a concert that is within a three-hour drive of Ashland, her mom takes her to see him. She has managed to be on the front row in the center of the stage for all but one of the concerts; for that concert, she got to sit backstage.
Saturday night, Karina’s mother and stepfather, Michelle and Harper Woods, planned a huge party for Karina’s 23rd birthday with all of her friends and family. It was a major event because Karina is so well known in the community. Despite being born with Down’s Syndrome, Karina has made an impact on many people in the area. She volunteers with Summer Motion and Poage Landing Days, she is the VIP volunteer for the “Our Night to Shine” prom, and she works in the kitchen at the Ramey Estep home, where she puts to use her degree in culinary arts. Bates first noticed Karina at a concert in Maysville, Kentucky in 2005. At nine years old, Karina was mimicking every single move that the singer was making on stage and singing every word to every song at the top of her lungs. Bates said that he stopped his concert because she was having such a blast. He said that “if we can’t stop what we’re doing no matter how big of a deal it is to spend a little time with somebody that special, then we got our focus on the wrong thing.”
When her parents first started planning the birthday party, Harper asked Michelle if it would be possible to get Bates to come to the party as a surprise for Karina. They contacted Bates and he told them to set it up with his booking agent and that’s exactly what they did.
Karina’s friend and deejay for the party, Rick Potter, set up the intro. He brought her up to the microphone and started asking her questions. When he asked who her favorite singer was, she, of course, said, “That’s easy! Jeff Bates!” Potter then told her that Jeff Bates would not be able to be there for her party. Right about that time, Bates walked into the room with his guitar and started singing “Happy Birthday” to her. She was so shocked that she started crying. When Bates told her that her mother set this up, she ran and hugged her mother; nearly the entire room was in tears.
Bates then started a concert just for the birthday girl and her guests. He played all of her favorite songs of his. When he didn’t remember the lyrics to a song that he hadn’t performed in years, he looked them up on Google and had her hold his phone while he sang the song from the screen. Bates also took the opportunity to dance with Karina. He said that he got to dance with her on her birthday. He said that he hasn’t danced in thirty years but that he was “dancing with the prettiest girl in the room and that was all that mattered.”
Karina said that this was her “best birthday ever” as she proudly wore around the shirt that Bates had given her right off his back. Her parents have doubts that they will ever be able to top this birthday. Michelle Woods says that she is “maxed out at 23.”