Tom Rich had practiced every day for weeks leading up to singing the National Anthem at Tuesday’s Toledo Mud Hens baseball game, so he was plenty prepared.
But just in case nerves crept up as Mr. Rich took his place behind home plate just before noon, he had two of the most important things in his life close by — his rosary in his pocket, and his fiancee, Jennah Welch, watching from the warning track.
This wasn’t just another singer belting out the well-known lyrics before a baseball game, though. Mr. Rich and Miss Welch both have cerebral palsy; Mr. Rich is a resident at the Anne Grady Center in Toledo, and Miss Welch is a resident at Sunshine Communities in Maumee.
“People in wheelchairs, they have a purpose,” Mr. Rich said. “That’s what inspires me the most. ... Even though you don’t have a disability or you do, God loves you. He has all the power. All you have to do is pray and asking Him for His help.”
Roger Fortener, the assistant executive director at Anne Grady, helped line up Tuesday’s performance for Mr. Rich. The two had spoken quite a bit about why Mr. Rich wanted to sing before the Mud Hens game.
“Our mission is to help them reach their highest capability. Tom and I talked quite a bit, and he told me he wanted to show people with disabilities can do anything,” Mr. Fortener said. “I think this is perfect. I’m blown away that he was selected. It’s just helping people with disabilities reach their highest potential, try to help them achieve their dreams.”
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