Ventriloquist's singing puppet delivers smiles at children's hospital

DANVILLE — "America's Got Talent" winner Darci Lynne impressed judges and fans with her comedic, musical and family-friendly ventriloquism.

On Monday, hours before her scheduled performance at the Bloomsburg Fair, Darci put on a special performance for children being treated at Geisinger's Janet Weis Children's Hospital and their families.

Her rabbit puppet, Petunia, sang a song for the 20 patients, family members and Geisinger staff who filled the lobby. Petunia also sang the alphabet song so kids could name the 60 hand animal puppets distributed by Michael McMullen, of the Children's Miracle Network.

"I love to see their happy faces and love to meet them all," Darci said. "It's important not only for me to perform, but to give back and to make them happy for at least one day."

"It's so much fun," Petunia said.

Twelve-year-old Trenton Dawson, an outpatient at the children's hospital, said it was great to see Darci and her show in person.

"I watched her win 'America's Got Talent,'" he said. "It's pretty cool."

Trenton's mother, Angela, of Covington, said he's watched her on the "Kids Baking Championships," a Food Network show.

Darci, whose last name is Farmer, won NBC's "America's Got Talent" competition in 2017, the show's 12th season. She performs with Petunia, the diva-esque rabbit; Oscar, the shy and soulful mouse and Edna, the brash old woman. Darci has also appeared on NBC's "Little Big Shots" and daytime talk shows including "Ellen" and the "Today Show."

Brandon Conoway, 15, of Port Matilda, watched Darci win her title on television and looked forward to meeting the star.

Brandon has been in the hospital for 126 days, according to his mother, Heather. "He's doing better and has ups and downs," she said, adding that she hopes he can be discharged in October.

Morgan West, 9, of Danville, was with her sister, Jenna, 7, and their mother, Christina Kreski. Morgan had an appointment ahead of eye surgery today. "They were very surprised and very excited. They watch her on YouTube,” Kreski said. The girls asked for tips on naming their puppets. Darci suggested that they turn to Google for inspiration. The family was heading to Darci's show at the fair on Monday night.

Darci's dad, Clarke Farmer, said his daughter was delighted to be at the children's hospital, part of her first visit Pennsylvania. 

Since she won the talent competition in 2017, Darci said it's been a "roller coaster but really fun and I'm enjoying it." She planned to be home today and head back to school with her continuing to tour later this year. She will appear in an NBC Christmas special later this year.

Fair Board President Paul Reichart said he arranged for Darci to appear before the children at the hospital. "I made the contact through her agent," he said, noting he thought about bringing Darci to the hospital “since the day she was booked for the fair.”

Children's Hospital Child Life Specialist Ashley Broschart said it was exciting to have her visit. "She, being a kid, can relate to the kids on a more personal level and bring smiles and hope,” she said.

Mary Neuber, of Wyalusing, said it was good for her son, Ethan, 4, to get out of his hospital room. She planned to take his picture with Darci to make his dad, Dave who was at work, jealous. With them was Ethan’s aunt, Dawn Ahern, of Harrisburg. Mary said her son had been there since Friday and was getting much better.

Brian Love-Ritchey, 8, of Williamsport, was shy when he met Darci and had his picture taken with her.

"It was pretty special," his mother Melissa Love-Ritchey said. She was there with her husband, and Brian's dad, Shawn. They expected their son to be discharged today.

Five-year-old Francesca Higdon, of Nanticoke, brought along a stuffed pig and cow she added to the kitty puppet she received from the Miracle Network. She opted not to have her picture taken with the entertainer, her mother, Angela, said.

Nurys Zepherin, of Carbondale, said her son, Maddox, 4,  has "had a long road of chronic illness." He was hospitalized Saturday and may be there a few more days.

Nurys said it was great Darci appeared "for something positive and fun instead of pokes and pain. This helps improve his experience and breaks up his day. It's so nice for her to take the time to visit and brighten the kids' day."

Her son Maddox, 4, was hospitalized Saturday and may be there a few more days. "He's had a long road of chronic illness," she said.

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