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Ann Romney Shares Struggle With MS

Mitt Romney's wife touched on her own battle with MS, when she visited a new therapeutic playground at All Children's Hospital.

Ann Romney delivered a message of hope and optimism Wednesday morning at the grand opening for a new theraupetic playground at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg: "Our little ones are our responsibility," she said. "It is our responsibility to take care of them and make sure their lives have joy."

"No matter our limits, it is important to know joy," Romney, 63, told the crowd, which included parents of children with serious disabilities and medical conditions.

Ann Romney's visit to St. Petersburg was her first public appearance since she made a heartfelt, well-received speech Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Romney offered a personal story of her life and love for husband, Mitt, in support of his GOP nomination for president.

Wednesday morning, her remarks were just as anecdotal, with Romney revealing her own struggles with multple sclerosis, an incurable disease that attacks the nervous system.

"I know someting about physical therapy, and I know something about joy," Romney said, noting that she used horseback riding as physical therapy when diagnosed with MS at age 49. Her comments also revealed a comfort for public speaking that seemed to belie a more corporate public demeanor.

She told the crowd how "grateful" she was for her visit and repeated some sage advice she received from an 11-year-old patient moments before walking on stage: " 'Let your light shine," Seth Morano of Sarasota told Romney upon meeting her. "You're going to be great."

Her appearance at the RNC Tuesday and at the ribbon-cutting Wednesday showed a softer side of Mitt Romney and the GOP presidential campaign. A small number of GOP leaders attended the event, including U.S. Rep. Bill Young, Florida Reps. Jim Frishe and Rich Glorioso, and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster.

While Ann Romney spoke in St. Petersburg Wednesday morning, her sons, Ben and Craig, campaigned in Palm Harbor, speaking to a breakfast crowd of Florida delegates.

The Romney family's candor at both events seemed to charm people. "I wish every day we could have a grand opening day at the playground," Seth declared when the speech ended and the children could play uninterrupted.

Benefits of Therapeutic Playground

Seth has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. His parents, Jennifer and David Morano, said that Seth will be using the slides and swings at the new playground for his physical therapy. Jennifer drives Seth from their Sarasota home to St. Petersburg for his physical therapy.

Allie Ribner, his physical therapist, said the children can improve motor skills and benefit from sensory stimulation at the outdoor playground. The playground – with its soft surfaces and cradled swings – also enables young people with disabilities to enjoy recreation with their siblings and other family members, which often is denied to them because of their limitations.

David Morano lifted his son from his wheelchair and carried him up the steps of a slide and placed the boy in the chute, as Seth squealed with joy. Seth's 9-year-old brother, Noah, played nearby.

"We're here for Seth. We're part of his world here," David said. "This will be a place for him to enjoy, to have fun."

Story Behind the Therapeutic Playground

The playground was developed though fundraising efforts and donations of credit union members. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and the National Journal Group partnered to develop the therapuetic playground "as a leave-behind project."  CUNA has a history of developing projects that benefit communities where National Party conventions are held.

Bulldog August 30, 2012 at 10:30 AM
Good for the kids! Thanks to: The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and the National Journal Group for the playground! BUT what does Ann Romney have to do with this playground? There are many people suffering with MS, she is one but please note she can afford to pay for treatment without the health care reforms she and Mitt are trying to take away from these kids. Why show her off here? I understand Mitt is horribly unpopular and the republicans are trying to show that he actually managed to catch a woman (probably hit her on the head with a club), but why discredit a wonderful thing like this with politics....
Urbancat August 30, 2012 at 02:41 PM
It read like a puff piece. How did the focus spin around her? Why the editorial tone? Hersey is a top notch Patch reporter. Would love to read about this amazing playground and it's genesis without the spin.
mary joyner August 30, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I am so amazed at the amount of negative energy that comes when something positive includes a conservative, republican woman. I am an independent middle of the road person and do not see the spin at all. If Mrs Obama or Hillary Clinton were there i would still feel they are focusing on a high profile person being at an event that promotes something good. I wish the negative energy such as, Romney having to hit her on the head with a club would stop. Thank you for bringing attention to the playground and i do not believe it discredits the project.
Bulldog August 30, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Mary, it is a great cause but this was just a exploitive political stunt. Those kids, the playground, and the charities that actually raised the money were used to create sympathy votes for Mitt. Read the headline: "Ann Romney Shares Struggle With MS". It would have been much more impressive if she had announced a large personal donation to the cause or maybe pledged to build more playgrounds, but alas no.. Getting the message out that "Ann Romney Shares Struggle With MS" was the sole purpose for her visit: Just like the people we have all seen on American Idol who tell sad sad stories to garner votes, the republican party, (and Mitt), paraded Ann as the the poor wife with MS, in front of America searching for sympathy votes. My previous statement about Mitt "hitting her on the head with a club" was a direct jab at the caveman like policies towards women of Mitt and the Republican party platform. I do not believe he actually beats Ann, only his dog.
mary joyner August 30, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Thanks for the clarification. Speaking from an acutal mothers heart and womans point of view I would have been just as compelled to read the story if Michelle Obama was the person they were using to draw readers. I believe they are both examples of dedicated women who want to see positive change for our children and grandchildren. Because I don't fit into either party or all liberal or conservative views, I guess I just took the article as a way to draw readers. I am a softy and just hate the negative humor that gets put on people who politically differ in views. I still have hope that the Obamas and Romneys and most liberal and conservatives are good people with different ideas. I do have to say though, you made me laugh when you said beat his dog!! :)
Bulldog August 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Peace and love Mary, The world would surely be a much better place if mom's were in charge, may you always be of good cheer! :)
mary joyner August 31, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Thanks! Peace and Love right back at you!

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