Between Jordan Spieth, Tony Romo and actor Bill Murray, celebrity sightings were plentiful at last week’s DEAN & DELUCA Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas. However, the real star power came in the form of those dressed in uniform, including 9-year-old Hallie Barnard.

On the south side of the 17th fairway at the pristine Colonial Country Club, 500 first responders from North Texas occupied the “Heroes’ Tent.” The space was reserved to honor Fort Worth’s Police Department, Fire Department and paramedics for their good work within the community.

For most, it was a day to kick back, enjoy platefuls of BBQ and take in some top-level golf. But for Hallie, an official Fort Worth police officer, it was a day to work.

Hallie was in full uniform because she was stationed at the “Hallie’s Heroes” booth within the tent.

You see, this young girl is already ahead of the game. She understands that heroes come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

Officer Brandi Kamper and Hallie Barnard at the DEAN & DELUCA outside the Heroes Tent

Hallie has Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), a rare blood disorder that requires a bone marrow transplant to cure. She was diagnosed at 13 months old, and she’s still waiting for her hero to come along in the form of a match.

“She believes her hero is going to be a double hero; somebody who has already served in the military, or served as a police officer or firefighter,” her mom Elyse Barnard said.

That’s why at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational, Hallie’s Heroes, the foundation Elyse created in 2015, was swabbing cheeks to help find a match for Hallie and other people like her who desperately need bone marrow transplants.

But, there’s so much more to this narrative, including the blossoming friendship and police department partnership between Hallie and officer Brandi Kamper, the real-life hero who used her tactical medical training to help save the life of an officer who had been shot in 2015. Now she’s using her skills to save more lives, as one of Hallie’s Heroes’ biggest advocates.

Putting DBA on the Map

For the first year of Hallie’s life, she didn’t grow much. At nine months old, she was still in newborn diapers and onesies. Doctors didn’t suspect anything was wrong until she got sick as an infant.

“A healthy person has a red blood cell count between 11 and 15. When people get sick, they drop down to an 11,” Elyse explained. “At nine, that’s when hematologists and oncologists are brought in. At seven, you need a blood transfusion. Hallie was at a four when we first walked into the emergency room.”

That’s when DBA, a disease that’s usually diagnosed at birth, was found. Because only four hospitals in the country treat the condition, the Barnards moved from Virginia to Dallas. It took more than two years to stabilize Hallie, but they eventually found the the right dosage of medication. And today, they utilize transfusions when necessary as they wait for a match.

“There’s a 1-in-7 chance you’ll find a match inside your family,” Elyse said. “We didn’t have that kind of luck on our side.”

A happy Hallie. Photo c/o Hallie’s Heroes/Facebook

Two years ago, four children with DBA passed away in one month, and thinking about Hallie’s prognosis sent Elyse into a depression. When the fog lifted a bit, she decided to be proactive and start Hallie’s Heroes.

Since its inception, the organization has swabbed more than 3,000 people and found 25 matches for other families. They’ve also taken it upon themselves to raise money for research and to offer medical scholarships to other families affected by the disease.

“Just to get a blood transfusion, it’s $2,000-$4,000,” Elyse said. “If Hallie gets resistant to steroids, which usually happens around this age, she’s going to need a blood transfusion every three weeks just to survive. That’s the financial reality of it, and we’re not the only ones experiencing it.”

Elyse and Hallie are making the effort to put this disease, which only affects about 800 kids, on the map. And now they’ve got the backing of the Fort Worth Police Department and Fire Department.

THE Hallie

Hallie’s father is a Marine and she was taught from an early age to approach veterans, police officers and firefighters to thank them for their service. Then she fell in with some of Fort Worth’s finest because she’s so outgoing.

“We were eating dinner out one day and Hallie saw 12 SWAT team guys come in, and she went right up to them and introduced herself,” Elyse said. “They said, ‘Hey, we’ve seen you on the news. You’re the Hallie. So she became friends with them.”

Last summer, she was invited be sworn in as an official Fort Worth police officer. She even got her own uniform, badge included. It was at the ceremony that Hallie met officer Brandi Kamper’s mom, a deputy chief in the department.

Kamper and Hallie get ready for Shake It Off. Photo c/o Hallie’s Heroes/Facebook

“I met her mom, and she said, ‘You look exactly like my daughter, Brandi,’ Hallie recalled. “So, she called officer Brandi.”

Kamper was working at the time, but was also intrigued by the call from her mother.

“That’s true. My mom called me and said, ‘I just met your mini-me.’ You need to come down here,” Kamper said. “As soon as Hallie saw me, she ran up to me and tackled me.”

It was a fast-forming friendship, and Kamper was drawn to Hallie’s “firecracker” spirit.

“After talking with her mom, I couldn’t help but feel pulled to help her find a match,” Kamper said. “I have a 6-year-old and a 5-year-old, and I just can’t imagine being in their position and looking for a match since Hallie was an infant.”

Along with being an advocate for Hallie, Kamper travels with Hallie for swab events. She also calls her regularly before doctor’s visits, and on days when Hallie doesn’t feel like going to school.

“She tells me that you have to go to school in order to be a veterinarian or the President of the United States, like I want to be,” Hallie said. “Officer Brandi is in medic school right now, so because she’s doing it, I know I need to work hard, too.”

Shake It Off

Brandi Kamper, a Fort Worth native, never wanted to be a police officer. She wanted to do something different than her mom and become a doctor.

Photo c/o Hallie’s Heroes/Facebook

“I joined the Army when I was 17,” she said. “I became a combat medic and then I went to nursing school and got my nursing license. I got out of the Army and I was working at a local hospital, and I went on a ride-out with the police, just out of boredom. Once I did the ride-out, I was hooked. It was so fun. That was 10 years ago.”

Kamper, who also served a tour in Kuwait, was dubbed a big-time hero in March of 2015 when officer Matthew Pearce was shot five times by a wanted felon and Kamper was the one who stabilized him while the shooter was still active.

“I do feel like I kiss my kids more and hug them a little tighter since that day,” Kamper said. “We all try to live in a state of gratefulness now.”

Kamper is currently in paramedic school to fulfill the police department’s new requirements for tactical medicine.

“We take people that have a medical background and put them in a unit where we run warrants,” she said. “We try and make sure we’re out there before the officers get injured.”

Between work, school, raising kids and helping Hallie and her family in their mission to find a match, Kamper has little time for much else. But, when the opportunity to shoot a music video with Hallie came along, Kamper was all in.

Hallie’s Heroes and DKMS called upon the city’s police and fire departments, and with Hallie and Kamper as the stars of the show, they filmed a video to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” in order to raise awareness for DBA and to encourage others to join the national registry.

“Only 1% of the adult population is in the national registry,” Kamper explained. “I feel like a lot of the reason why people don’t swab is they don’t stop and ask the questions about what’s involved. Now it’s a procedure where they put you to sleep and you wake up with a sore hip. But the result is you’re giving someone a second chance. I feel like if more people take the time to look it up and see what the process actually is, a lot of that fear would go away and more people would register.”

So, as Hallie waits for her perfect match to come along, she can put things in perspective, like no other 9-year-old, to encourage others to get swabbed.

“When I was a baby, my parents didn’t know I had DBA. My parents were brushing their teeth and I was in my cradle, and I stopped breathing. My dog, Rusty, howled. He howled like a wolf. So, my parents ran into the room because they were scared and they found me not breathing, so he’s one of my heroes. But I know there are a lot more out there.”

Could you be one?

If you’re interested in getting swabbed and joining the national registry, visit

If you’re interested in learning more about Hallie’s Heroes, or would like to make a donation, visit You can also follow along on Facebook and on Twitter.