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:
When 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.