At age five, he informed me that he was going to be a singing, preaching, and drumming comedian. He sang his first song, “God on the Mountain” by the singing group McKameys, in church. A family friend played the guitar with Daniel propped up against his leg to sing. For years after that, however, he couldn’t sing: the breathing problems and cerebral palsy seemed to get the better of him.
At thirteen, he tried again. Despite using an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, Daniel sang anywhere anyone would listen--though listening took effort because even with a microphone on full volume, he would be gasping for breath. One gentleman even told me not to let Daniel sing, since it took too much out of him. Daniel responded: “As long as I have breath, I will praise the Lord.” A year later, while sitting in church, Daniel suddenly informed me he no longer needed his oxygen tank because God had a task for him. Without thinking, I automatically said, “OK.” (I often argued about a lot of things, but God was not one of them.)
Immediately Daniel stopped using his oxygen tank, and we went to the doctor’s office the next day. After running tests, the doctor determined that Daniel no longer needed the oxygen tank. One week later Daniel was singing again. This time, no one had trouble hearing him. Even to this day, he doesn’t use the oxygen tank or take breathing medications.
Now, at 22 years old, he sings professionally across the nation, although he is still confined to a wheelchair. Several people have alluded to his condition by asking, “How do you sing sitting down?” Daniel just replies, “Hey man, I don’t sing with my legs!”
Among his many accomplishments are being honored as an award-winning soloist (he has won thirteen awards) and as an Elvis Tribute Artist. Daniel has also spoken and sung at national disability conferences (there are two scheduled for this year), and he has performed the national anthem for six years at the baseball games of the Birmingham Barons, a Minor League team in Alabama.
One highlight for Daniel was performing the National Anthem on the show “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” In 2003, he even tried out for “American Idol,” but he was a first-round reject. Daniel said the only thing that bothered him about being rejected in the first round was that he didn’t get to meet Simon Cowell. But I know that’s not going to stop him from pursuing his dreams.
His inspirational song “I’ll Run With You” is now released nationally on Christian radio stations. Clips of his music can be heard on www.danielrayministries.com. If you listen to the sound clips and take a look at the picture gallery, you will see someone who is full of life and ready to tackle the world.
Through the years, Daniel and I have come a long way, with many ups and down. He can now use a walker for short distances. On his website, there is a picture of him standing on one crutch, even though that only lasted long enough for the picture to be taken.
We always hear life isn’t a bed of roses. Take a moment and think about this. Even though a rose is full of thorns, there is still a beautiful rose attached to the stem. Even though Daniel still has cerebral palsy, I have hope that one day he will run with us all.