Timmy Kelly

A 10-year-old named Timmy Kelly performed the National Anthem at the start of today’s NFC Championship Game between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. My natural reaction was, “Who the heck is this kid?” (or words to that effect).

Here’s the answer:

Timmy’s singing voice wows ’em wherever he goes (Shriners)

Photo of blind singer Timmy KellyWhen Timmy Kelly is around, musical sounds can be heard in the central activity area at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital, where patients, staff and families gather to hear the talented youngster belt out Broadway tunes. On a particular day in January, he astounded the crowd with surprise songs dedicated to Randal R. Betz, M.D., chief of staff, during his surprise birthday celebration. There is no need to twist his arm to sing a few notes for the gathering. Timmy has performed all over the Delaware Valley in the Northeast. He has big plans and, after spending time with him and his parents Eileen and Tim, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind, that Timmy can overcome any obstacle that may come his way.

An outgoing 9-year-old, Timmy has been a patient at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital since he was 18 months old. He was born prematurely at 26 weeks, diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy and retinopathy of prematurity (both retinas were detached). Timmy is no stranger to hospitals, having spent more than four months in intensive care after coming into the world. At birth, he weighed slightly less than two pounds. Today, though, he is a burst of sunshine whenever he returns to the hospital for additional treatment. His most recent visit to Shriners was for surgery on his hamstrings. Releasing the hamstrings allows him to walk better and straighter. His follow-up therapy sessions are special treats for everyone, because he never leaves without singing a song or two. After hearing him carry a tune, an employee commented, “This kind of therapy is beneficial for all of us.”

Timmy is a natural. He started taking voice lessons about one-and-a-half years ago after attending his first Broadway performance. He saw Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, starring Philadelphia’s very own Andrea McArdle. After the show, Timmy had the opportunity to meet Andrea backstage, where he sang for her. Once she heard his voice, she recommended that Timmy take lessons with her voice coach in Philadelphia.

Timmy’s personal appearances have taken off. One of the highlights has been singing the national anthem at the home opener of the Camden Riversharks baseball team at Campbell Field in New Jersey. But that’s not all. He auditioned to sing at the home games of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles and was selected as an alternate from a pool of more than 400 people. Besides that, he recently participated with the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital staff on radio station WNWR (1540-AM) during the taping of a special needs program.

The youngster not only excels at singing, but he also became the first blind kindergarten child mainstreamed in a Philadelphia public school, Anne Frank Elementary School, located near his home in Northeast Philadelphia. The other option for Timmy was to attend Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia. Because of the long commute, his family decided to stay close to home. Because he does so well in various school subjects, it made sense that he should attend school in his area.

Now you know.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. It sounded to me he got nervous. But there were moments where you knew he had talent. He probably won’t put this performance on his publicity tape.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Agreed. My guess is that, were he a perfectly healthy 10-year-old, he wouldn’t have been in this position. His backstory is he appeal. I figured it was something like this, given the reactions of the service members they were showing. I was rather surprised that the game announcers didn’t fill us in.

  3. FireWolf says:

    Well he’s alot better than WIlliam Hung

    Good story, I was wondering who he was also.

  4. Harry says:

    I’m thinking the fact that it was what, 6 degrees?? – may have affected him more than nerves.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Once, just once, I want to hear the story of a 10 year old with some handicap who’s been in hospitals all his life who is bitter and cynical and writes howlingly funny poetry that totally makes fun of kids like this.

    But that’s just me.

  6. RE Gardner says:

    Reading this, I want to point out the contributions of the Shriners Hospital (for Crippled Children) mentioned in the article. They take no money for their services, and always get top scores from the charity rating organizations. They have very low fund raising overhead, because it is mostly handled by retirees – Shriners, which are part of the Masons – yes the guys in the funny fez hats.
    Regardless, I find it entertaining that PC usually leaves off the “for Crippled Children” from the name.
    And no, I’m not a Shriner, but I think this is one of the best run charities out there.

  7. Roy Lofquist says:

    I saw the tear run down the soldier’s face (it was a fleeting glimpse – a marine or a sailor). I was touched to the point of a tear myself. I agree that the broadcasters were completely clueless and were remiss in their responsibilities. The Philadelphia Eagles organization is obviously much more in touch with their fans than is the media.

  8. John says:

    Roy, sorry to be a wet blanket, but there were actually a lot of tearful eyes. The wind was blowing and it was cold. That leads to tearing as a natural response. Were I Timmy’s PR person, I’d certainly save the tearful shots, but it wouldn’t be honest.

  9. Will says:

    Thanks for the post, I, too, wondered who the kid was. Like others, I noticed a few tears on the faces of the color guard. When I didn’t hear the Philly crowd booing (hey, these guys booed Santa Claus . . . ) I figured this was pretty serious.

  10. Paladin says:

    Thanks for the post. Love the positive news!

  11. Karen says:

    Timmy Kelly has been around the Eagles for quite awhile, he appeared at the beg of a few games last season. Having heard his beautiful (yes, beautiful) voice before, the choking part could have been caused by the wind that whips through the Linc. Got to experience it to understand. And the tears – they were real, folks.

    And Timmy I am sure joins each and every fellow Eagles fan today in celebration!

  12. Tim Kelly says:

    Just wanted to add my comments. The info on Timmy is dated. Since that article was written Timmy has performed at hundreds of events. Last year he sang God Bless America following Rubin Studdard at the Linc for the EAGLES. He has also performed the National Anthem for President George W. Bush three times, once for the First Lady. He has appeared live on Good Morning America. Last week he performed the National Anthem at the EAST WEST Shrine Game in San Francisco California. I am his father so you know I am baised, but I will tell you that what Timmy was able to do on the field on Sunday was remarkable. He wasn’t nervous and he does have the “voice of an angel”. The wind was about 30 miles an hour and blew right into his face taking his breath away. Any singer would have struggled on that field. Trust me ther are many, many people who are moved to tears when he sings. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him sing in person it is a memorable experience. He has a very impressive resume. Here is the other story. Fantasia the American Idol was to fly in on a red eye from California. Her flight was cancelled and the EAGLES asked Timmy to sing. Yes they are in touch with their fans but Timmy had to auditon just like the other 500+ contestants. He first auditioned when he was 8 years old. This is a voice you will be hearing in the future.

  13. Tim Kelly says:


    Thank you for your kind words, clearly you have heard Timmy before. As one man told me “he touches a place inside of us that is special” as he wiped away his tears. I believe folks will have the opportunity to hear Timmy sing in the future and they may in fact be moved to tears. Teddy Atlas is a man who has been moved to tears by Timmy along with plenty of others.
    Thanks again.

  14. Jackie says:

    Hopefully we will get to hear more from him in the future when it is warmer and not in the middle of a nor’easter:)

  15. Mike says:

    I was there, way up there with fellow refugees from the Vet’s 700 section. We had no idea who Timmy was; all we heard was a kid having trouble with that difficult song. At this point, you might expect that we’d treat the kid worse than Santa Claus, but you’d be wrong: After he first stumbled, I found myself singing along a little louder and more heartily than usual, and then I noticed everyone around me was doing the same thing. It was as if the whole crowd wanted to help the kid back up so he could bring it home. I wouldn’t say we got too teary eyed, but that brave little kid’s performance got us pumped up–and I’ll bet he got a few players fired up to win one for the Timmer.

  16. sheila says:

    No one I know that watched the football game here in Indy had a clue as to who this little guy was so it was suggested that I ask Google – and sure enough this popped up. Thank God I learned who Timmy Kelly is – he certainly had me in tears. Thanks Timmy. Maybe we’ll see you on Idol!!!

  17. maureen says:

    When I heard Timmy sing I knew I needed to find out more information about him. He is absolutly amazing and I truly enjoyed his performance! I wish him all the best!

  18. Kmcg says:

    I would just like to say, that Timmy’s voice is beautiful! I have heard him sing many times. He is the greatest 10 year old I ever met, always having a smile on his face! The tears coming out of those soldier’s eyes were real, nothing to do with the cold. How do you not cry when you hear him sing? And as the fans all stood there and sung with him, priceless. Keep up the tremendous work Timmy!!!!!!!

  19. Gerri Allen says:

    After reading some of the comments, I cannot believe how cynical people can be. That little boy has the voice of an angel and the courage of a giant. The tears in everyone’s eyes were true tears. I was sitting in the comfort of my own home with no cold and no winds and I couldn’t stop crying. I lost my son 6 years ago to cancer and understand the power of these little angels. I hope I hear from and about Timmy Kelly for a long time to come; he is truly an inspiration.

  20. Faye Corman says:

    I feel compelled to chime in. Considering the field conditions last Sunday, I thought Timmy was a champ! His best performance?… well, no, but better than many, many professional singers could have done and this kid is only 10! I have been fortunate enough to hear Timmy sing on many occasions and I can tell you that he has really knocked my socks off! He is an amazingly gifted boy and I am sure we will hear more from him in the future.

    Hey, Timmy, congratulations and have a great time at the Superbowl! You deserve it buddy!

  21. Denise says:

    I had the good fortune of hearing Timmy sing live. He sang the National Anthem last July at the YMCA Women’s Gymnastics National Competition opening ceremony in Horsham, PA. People from all over the country were there & were awed by his performance. He leaned back on his dad for support, but had such a powerful voice! There were not many dry eyes in the crowd. When he finished, everyone was on their feet cheering. On his fathers shoulders, he raised his hands to thank the crowd. It was a moving experience.
    Timmy is a wonderful child with a gift from God that he shares with others. I feel fortunate to be one of them.

    by Denise

  22. Jean says:

    We’re in Ohio, but my husband is from Philly so we were pumped up for the game… Then here comes Timmy. When I saw that Marine with tears running down his face I just lost it. I went on google to find out his story. He truly has an angel’s voice and I would hug the puddin’ out of him if I ever saw him!!
    I think it was very nice of Tim to reply to this site with more info. Please give Timmy a hug from Ohio!!

  23. pat says:

    i’d like to tell timmy & his dad how proud i was of our country hearing him sing and showing us the innocence of a child….he was truly brave and i thought you did a great job esp with the cold and the wind……you have fought a long battle with prematurity complications and have done so with grace……i delivered many weeks early with my preg and timmy’s accomplishments are definitley worthy to praise..have fun at the super bowl…GO EAGLES

  24. Tim Kelly says:

    Hello Folks,

    Your responses are touching. Timmy is truly an inspirational person. On Thursday a local tv station (channel 6 ABC) surprised us with two tickets to the Super Bowl and the school district of Lower Moreland committed to paying for our trip to Jacksonville. They are running fund raisers to pay for the trip calling it “Fly Timmy Fly” campaign. The community has reallied around our family because of Timmy. As his father I can tell you it is a deeply moving experience. Eileen and I will be forever grateful. More about Timmy. This is a boy who seems to take everything in stride. Imagine a day filled with a good amount of difficulty walking, a certain amount of pain, not being able to see where you are going and having to depend completely on others to safely direct you. Not an easy task. Timmy does this everyday and there is so much more that he just takes in stride. Despite these obstacles, Timmy is a very well adjusted, happy child with a tremendous zest for life. He is very curious and inquisitive. His hearing is remarkable, and his ability to remember names with voices is just amazing. We got to meet Diane Sawyer and he asked her “how do you move your notes when you are on the air?”. Think about that question for a minute and think about Diane Sawyer. The next time you see her on Good Morning America watch what she does with her notes. Timmy could hear that and was interested in knowing what she does. Diane Sawyer was speechless. I was reading Timmy a story written about him in a local magazine. The author said “Timmy was one of the unlucky ones”. Referring to his blindness and CP. Timmy stopped me and asked what she meant about that. I was in tears and struggled to answer and said well Timmy you are blind and have CP. He said, with authority “dad, I’m not one of the unlucky ones. It isn’t so bad being blind and having CP”. You tell me he is not a warrior with the heart filled with love and the voice of an angel.


  25. Dave and Sharan says:

    Having first met Timmy’s father in 1976, I can say he is very lucky to have such a wonderful person to guide him. As part of our extended Navy family Tim’s love for and dedication to children has always been apparent. A man of faith, Tim once told me he was the one who had been blessed with a special gift and his name is Timmy.

  26. Dee says:

    In that kind of cold, I doubt any professional singer could do any better than Tim. Singing is more than glitz and glitter–as American Idol seems to insist. Song comes from the heart–and this kid’s got it–right on key!