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Stockbridge resident gets star treatment in Hollywood

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A Henry County girl battling potentially fatal heart problems, recently had a dream fulfilled, in the form of an afternoon with her favorite movie star.

Nine-year-old Alina Kent, of Stockbridge, was still beaming Friday, after returning from Hollywood, Calif., where she met her favorite actress, Jessica Alba.

Kent found out two years ago that she was born with chronic mitral valve regurgitation, a progressive condition which improperly separates the atrium and ventricle of the heart.

In addition, Kent suffers from tachycardia, or an abnormally rapid heartbeat.

The conditions were discovered after Kent had a panic attack while attending Oakland Elementary School in McDonough. The condition forced dramatic changes in the child's diet and activities.

"I couldn't have anything with caffeine, like chocolate or Coke, and I had to have a lot of water, because tachycardia makes your heart go really fast," Kent explained. "Sometimes, when I get sick, I have to go to the emergency room, because I get dehydrated, and they have to give me an I.V."

Alina met Alba through a wish-granting program, the Kids Wish Network, for children afflicted with various illnesses. When asked why she requested, last year, to meet the star of two "Fantastic Four" movies, Kent cited Alba's talent and "down-to-earth" nature.

"She's has a lot of movies I like, and I knew she was probably really sweet," the fourth-grader said.

Kent said she was thrilled eight months later, when she found out she would get her wish.

"It was really exciting, and my mom told me to calm down," Alina said. "My skin was jumping up and down."

The Kent family flew to Hollywood March 27 to meet Alba. Kent described their time together, which included a shopping spree and a trip to Alba's personal hair salon, as one of the highlights of her young life.

"[Alba] dyed her hair the same color as mine, because she liked it so well," the nine-year-old said with a smile. "She said it inspired her."

Kent said she "felt like a celebrity" as she visited a number of Hollywood shops with Alba. She said the actress gave her several gifts during their five-hour visit together, such as a gold bracelet the actress purchased at a shop on Rodeo Drive.

In addition, Alina Kent said Alba gave her some good advice, upon being told of the Stockbridge child's desire to be either be an actress or a cardiologist when she grows up. "She recommends that I be a cardiologist, and do plays, so I'll be able to get some of both," Kent said.

Madeline Robinson, Kent's wish coordinator with the Kids Wish Network, accompanied the family for the encounter with Alba, and said Alina "was a star herself" with the performer.

"She was not intimidated at all," Robinson said. "[Kent and Alba] were like two old friends, talking, playing, laughing and discussing girl things."

Alina's mother, 26-year-old Vina Kent, said she appreciates Alba's willingness to put a smile on a fan's face, adding that her daughter "glowed the whole day" during her time with the actress.

"You hear about celebrities doing stuff like this, but Jessica went above and beyond what we could ever imagine," Vina Kent said. "She really helped to make Alina feel like a star."

Alina's father, 32-year-old Jason Kent, said he was happy to see his daughter's dream of meeting Alba come true, as she continues to battle her illnesses.

"After all we have been through, it was nice to see her feel normal and have that childlike glow," he said.

Alina Kent said meeting her favorite star is an experience she will not soon forget.

"I felt like she's my own guardian angel," she said. "She was very sweet, and we had a lot of fun together."