Noelle Camara says meeting Kobe Bryant was a night she'll never forget.
Holding on to the size 14 shoe that the basketball superstar wore during a 2001 game she attended, she said, "He talked to me. He's like, 'Always pursue your goals and don't give up.' And I think that always stuck with me. I was in the low point in my time because I was still getting used to being in a wheel chair."
Camara was in a car crash in 1999 that left her paralyzed from the waist down. In 2001, NBCLA interviewed her about a push for lap seat belt regulations.
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"Everyone is pretty much okay," Camara said at the time. "They recovered from their injuries, except for me. I'm still working on it, so I have hope."
After the story aired, Bryant called the newsroom, hoping to get in touch with Camara, who used to play basketball.
She got a call from Bryant's manager, inviting her to the next home game.
"I still didn't believe it until I got it in the mail, the actual tickets," Camara said. "And I said, 'Oh wow! This is real!'"
She attended the game and sat courtside.
"You could see them playing," Camara said. "Shaq was right there. It was just amazing--best thing ever, because we were huge Laker fans. Huge laker fans."
After the game, with no cameras or media around, Bryant signed his game shoes, a jacket, a sweater and a bunch of Lakers' memorabilia that Camara has kept close to her heart ever since.
But it's the message he shared with her that meant even more.
"I have to remember the words he told me, 'Follow your dreams. Don't give up. You have your goals, and you shouldn't let the situation put you down.' And I always remember that, every now and then, especially when you have those hard times."
Now a mother to three boys, Camara says she hopes to keep Bryant's message alive, even though he's no longer around.
"We can just remember the good times and remember who he was as a person," she said. "And we should take that in ourselves and express it other people and show them they can do it as well, like he showed us."