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American Idol participant finds biological family; one of them lives in Riverton

On the American Idol set Lindy (second from the right) meets her niece McKenna Breinholt for the first time (h/t Lindy Nielson)

By Amanda Fehring

RIVERTON, Wyo. — Riverton resident Lindy Nielsen received the surprise of her life last summer when McKenna Breinholt called her late one night.

A phone call might not seem that exciting, but McKenna happens to be the niece Lindy’s family had been looking for for eight years.

McKenna, now 25, living in Arizona, and currently on American Idol, was put up for adoption by Lindy’s sister, Amy.

It was a closed adoption, so the family had no contact with McKenna.

In 2020, Lindy’s other sister, Katie, found her online. Unsure if she knew that she was adopted and did not want to tell her that her biological mother had passed, Lindy’s family opted not to reach out.

Between 2020 and 2023, Lindy and her husband, Jeremy, produced a documentary, Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl: The Story of Amy and Derrick, as a tribute to her sister and McKenna’s mom, Amy and her husband, Derrick.

Amy was diagnosed with lupus in high school. She then went into renal failure and had to start dialysis at the age of 32. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 40.

Immediately following Amy’s death, Derrick took his own life. Though not McKenna’s father, he was there for Amy throughout the pregnancy and birth.

Not once did Amy let her diagnosis or its effects define her. She was a musician through and through with her husband, Derrick. They were a Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl.

McKenna is currently in the top 24 on American Idol, and looks and sounds like her mom.

“She’s definitely her own person,” Lindy said. “But it is impossible to not be overwhelmed at the similarity.”

In November 2023, Lindy’s mom, brother and sister all got the opportunity to meet McKenna in person after months of just Facetime visits.

Her adoptive family and the producers of American Idol arranged to have them surprise McKenna in Nashville after her audition. The surprise can be watched in the video below.

“She’s everything beautiful about our sister and more,” Lindy said of McKenna.

Lindy shared that her family has so much love and appreciation for McKenna’s adoptive family.

“I just can’t stress enough how this is going the way that it is because they’re so loving and accepting of us. And there are five of them, including McKenna, and it took all five of them to do what they’ve done because they worked with us and the American Idol producers to arrange for us to go without telling McKenna, but just their willingness to do that is pretty amazing, because that’s a really special moment for them on national TV with their daughter.”

McKenna finds out on Sunday, April 14, if she made it into the top 20 on American Idol. Tune in at 8/7c on ABC.

Lindy encourages everyone to follow McKenna’s journey on American Idol and to vote for her as many times as possible.

Lindy (far right) meeting McKenna in Nashville at the American Idol auditions (h/t Lindy Nielsen)