45 children to sign anthem at Opening Day

April 03, 1993|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,Staff Writer

Five minutes before her television debut, Megan Rohrs looked shyly at her father, waved and held up her hand with thumb, index finger and pinky extended -- sign language for "I love you."

Once the camera started rolling, the Parkville 5-year-old and 14 of her classmates, dressed in costumes from Holland, Russia, Greece and elsewhere, put all distractions aside and concentrated on signing the national anthem live on WJZ-TV's "Rise and Shine" morning television show.

Yesterday's performance at Perry Hall High School was just a rehearsal for the youngsters and their teacher, Kellie Caruso. Their big show is Monday, Opening Day for the baseball season, when 45 costumed children, ages 6 to 14, will perform at Camden Yards. They will sign "The Star-Spangled Banner" behind local singer Nikki Laws.

The youths are members of Children Around the World, a 4-year-old program conceived and run by Miss Caruso, a 17-year-old senior at Perry Hall High. She uses the lyrics of popular songs by such artists as Raffi and Peter, Paul and Mary, to teach the youngsters a precise form of sign language known as signed English.

Miss Caruso took her first sign language class through the Red Cross when she was 8. During her freshman year of high school, she started her independent program be cause, she said, she saw few opportunities for children to learn sign language. However, words are not the only thing the children learn.

"I've always talked to the children about how they shouldn't discriminate," said Miss Caruso, an honor student and captain of her school's pom squad. "They shouldn't be prejudiced because we're all equal and the same."

The children in the independent program come from various ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. Their songs are about family values and people who get along.

Ask them about their turn in the spotlight of Opening Day and they shy away. Their parents don't have that problem.

"I'm thrilled," said Patricia Molinar, whose sons, James, 10, and Sean, 12, will wear costumes of Egypt and Israel, respectively. "I can't believe we're going to be performing at the stadium -- well, not me."

The Orioles will be along the first-base line and the Rangers along the third-base line. The children, with Miss Caruso leading and Miss Laws, a 16-year-old Parkville High School student, singing, are scheduled to take the field at 1:26 p.m. Minutes later, President Clinton is to toss out the first ball.

Amy Nelson, coordinator of ballpark entertainment and Orioles promotions, said Miss Caruso's program will help the Orioles showcase children, local talent and sign language in the opening ceremony.

Tim Rohrs, Megan's father, said his daughters -- Amanda, 7, will also perform -- don't really grasp the size of Monday's expected crowd.

"Amanda keeps saying 5,000," he said. "I say 45,000."

No matter how many thousands attend, there is one man the children want to meet -- President Clinton.

Miss Caruso said she encouraged the children to write to the president in the hope that he will meet the costumed children and realize that "if he shakes the hands of the children around the world, he's shaking the hands of all nations."

Next stop for the children: a Hershey Park concert on May 8 and some performances at local malls. They also are hoping for an invitation to the White House Easter egg roll, Miss Caruso said.

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