After her emotional speech Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, Ann Romney resumed the campaign today with a visit to St. Petersburg where she cut the ribbon to open a new physical therapy playground at All Children’s Hospital.
During the event, she found some common ground with 11-year-old Seth Morano of Sarasota.
Seconds after the pieces of red ribbon had fluttered to the ground in the shady playground Seth leaned back in his wheelchair, tilted his head for maximum projection and shouted a short message.
“Two words,” he said. “Let’s play!”
Seth’s father, David Morano, is a salesman. Every year he brings his son to St. Petersburg for three weeks of intense physical therapy at All Children’s Hospital.
“He was born very premature, and as a result of being born premature, he got cerebral palsy,” said Morano.
He says it’s vitally important that his son receive this annual treatment at the hospital.
“[It's] critical, absolutely critical” he said. “The less he moves, the tighter he gets. And it’s just the tighter he gets, the less mobile he is, the more help he needs.”
Morano says the new therapy playground with its specially designed swings and slides will add some fun to Seth's treatment.
Ann Romney spoke at the ceremony for about three minutes. Looking fit and energetic in bright pink with pearls and a large, clunky watch, she told a group of mostly Republican supporters and hospital insiders that she also knows a little something about physical therapy.
“I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 49, and I went into a pretty bad spiral,” said Romney. “Over just a matter of two, three months I lost the use of my right side, almost completely. I was having difficulty with speech and a lot of different issues and I turned to a joy place, for me, which was horses. And I turned to riding. And that physical therapy, that literally physical making your body work and just pushing through some of the pain and pushing through some of the limitations that I had were a huge benefit in my life.”
This $300,000 playground is essentially the Tampa Bay area's permanent souvenir of the Republican National Convention. It was a gift from the Credit Union National Association which routinely lobbies and networks at the conventions of both parties.
Bill Cheney, the association CEO, said Charlotte, North Carolina, can expect a similar playground at a children's hospital when the Democratic convention opens there.
“Rather than come into town, participate in the convention and then leave, we felt like it was important to leave something behind that benefits the community,” said Cheney.
Democrats in the crowd seemed fascinated by Mrs. Romney. Many, like Seth's father, had seen her convention speech the previous night and even admired how her apparent warmth and charm seemed to compensate for the sometimes puzzling personality of her husband, Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Morano says the visit didn't change his plans to vote for President Obama.
“But I do very much appreciate this,” said Morano. “I don't want to be political about a children's playground opening.”
As the program ended, music by familiar Republican performers like Kid Rock and Blake Shelton played on the public-address system. Looking for significance in the music choice might be a stretch, but this Shelton country song was all about a couple whose qualities balance out.
“If you'll be my soft and sweet, I'll be your strong and steady,” sings Shelton. “You be my glass of wine. I'll be your shot of whiskey.”