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Yankees Bring a Ray of Light to DMF

Right fielder Nick Swisher, Catcher Francisco Cervelli, and outfielder Chris Dickerson talk to Daniel at home plate before game

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The Bronx Bombers take their talents to Broadway

It was March 1997, and 12-year-old Daniel Trush was playing basketball with his father, Ken. Daniel took a shot and missed, but then fell to the ground, grabbing his head. His father thought he was upset from missing the shot, but it was something far more severe: one of five brain aneurysms had burst inside Daniel’s head.

“Effectively, there was no oxygen or blood going to his brain,” Ken said.

Ken and his wife, Nancy, were told that Daniel had gone from bad to worse, and that he was on the brink of dying. Doctors at Beth Israel Hospital could not control the bleeding in Daniel’s brain, and as a last resort, doctors performed a lumbar drain, which saved his life. Daniel was in a coma for the next 30 days and in the hospital for the next 341.

Ken was constantly at his son’s side throughout the entirety of his coma, playing music from Gloria Estefan’s album, Reach. There were two songs in particular then Ken focused on: the title track, “Reach” and “I’m Not Giving You Up.”

When Daniel was released from the hospital, he went home, and his family kept playing the album. Although Daniel was unable to speak, he mouthed the lyrics that he had heard so often while in the coma.

Fast-forward six years to 2003. Daniel graduated high school, and was taking classes at Hunter College in Manhattan. He was struggling due to memory issues stemming from the aneurysms, but his music teacher “loved” the work that Daniel was doing in the class. Ken realized that music was the one thing that Daniel was responding to, and felt that it could change his life.

“I said, ‘That’s it!’ Music. That’s what he’s connecting to,” Ken said.

With his teacher’s encouragement ringing in his ears, in August 2005, Daniel and his family founded Daniel’s Music Foundation (DMF), which provides free music programs for people with disabilities in the New York metropolitan area. The foundation has grown from one class with five members to 26 classes with more than 150 members and a waiting list.

“It makes me very happy and proud to be able to share this [love for music] with the musicians at DMF,” Daniel said.

On Monday, July 25, the DMF members, friends, and family gathered at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a very special concert that was made even better when four members of the New York Yankees surprised the performers while they were rehearsing: right fielder Nick Swisher, catchers Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli, outfielder Chris Dickerson, and former Yankee outfielder Bernie Williams.

“I was shocked. I had no idea that they were coming. So I was in total shock and awe,” Daniel said.

Also lending their support to the event was Romeo Santos, the lead singer of Aventura, as well as cast members from five Broadway musicals: Million Dollar Quartet, Wonderland, Catch Me if You Can, Book of Mormon, and Anything Goes.

The Bronx Bombers then joined the performance, which featured old-time hits such as Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” as well as Broadway showtunes, such as “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease. The concert concluded with the entire cast singing the Frank Sinatra classic, “New York, New York.”

But the Yankees’ involvement in Daniel’s life didn’t stop there. Daniel, his family, and the members of DMF were invited to Yankee Stadium to sing the national anthem and be honored on the field during a pregame ceremony before that night’s game against the Seattle Mariners.

The ceremony was delayed due to a rainstorm, but DMF still got their moment in the “sunshine.” They sang the national anthem, and afterwards, Ken was amazed at the way the Yankees treated his son and the foundation.

“When they told us about HOPE Week, and then they went on with Broadway, and then the players, and Bernie playing, and then we get here, we’re singing the national anthem. Amazing! I just can’t believe how far they’ve gone for us,” he said.