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He may not have a platinum album to match his idol, Gavin DeGraw, but 13-year-old Nathan Walker is using his singing voice to pay his staggering medical bills.
The eighth grader at Sylvania's Arbor Hills Junior High School was inspired by a private concert in April in his hospital room by Mr. DeGraw, a pop-rock singer.
Last night, Nathan - who suffers from spina bifida - performed his original music for the first time at Delaney's Lounge, 309 West Alexis Rd.
"What do you see when you see me?" Nathan crooned. "Well, I see unstoppable. A life where nothing is impossible."
For Nathan, singing the lyrics is a way of informing the world that his wheelchair cannot stop him from achieving great things. The teenager has undergone 40 surgeries since birth to minimize the effects of spina bifida, a rare birth defect in which the spinal column does not close completely.
"People look at me in my wheelchair, but they can't see the real person," Nathan said. "That's not who I am."
Nathan has been singing since he was a toddler, but he only began writing songs after Mr. DeGraw visited his hospital room in April. The pop star advised his young devotee to perform early and often if he is serious about launching a musical career.
"We're going to send a thank-you CD to Gavin DeGraw and then send demos to music companies," said Nathan's mom, Diana Watt. "Then we'll see."
Last night's performance was part of a larger fund-raising effort by the Watt family to pay Nathan's medical bills. A single mother with two other children, Mrs. Watt declared bankruptcy last spring and says she does not know how she will continue to pay rent and hospital fees.
Bill Delaney, a family friend of the Watts and the owner of Delaney's Lounge, said he is glad to help. In addition to hosting the concert last night, Mr. Delaney is urging every bar owner in Toledo to put out a donation can.
"I have been on stage with this kid, and he's absolutely awesome," Mr. Delaney said. "The family is something special, and they really need the help."
For the moment, Nathan is healthy and looking forward to writing the rest of his music for a demo tape.
Last night, he performed several popular songs - including, of course, one of Mr. DeGraw's pieces - in addition to his own composition.
"I can't remember the last time I had something good to celebrate," Mrs. Watt said. "But between the music and the fund-raising, we're finally happy."
Nathan's two younger sisters said he has been an inspiration, but they don't plan to follow him into music careers. "It's cool to see him," said McKenzie, 9. "But I want to be an actress."
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