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Diamond and heart: Keilan, Vets Home receive award

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 8/13/2019

Aug. 13--The Minnesota Twins game on Saturday, Aug. 10 finished in a home team win 4-1 against Cleveland, but viewers may have noticed some trophies being handed out at the start of the game: Josh Keilan and the Minnesota Veterans Home in Fergus Falls won the Harmon's Heart of Baseball Award which honors a person with disabilities who works in community-based employment and always gives it their all, is kind, positive, helpful and inspiring.

Keilan, a dietary associate at the Veterans Home, was out on the field for a pregame onfield award ceremony where he was presented his trophy by Twins legend Tony Oliva. Scott Buchanon of the Veterans Home was also there, accepting the award on behalf of the Veterans Home. The ceremony was shown on the jumbotron, including a video about Keilan made by local production company AMS Digital Productions. Keilan then threw out the first pitch, a great throw right into T.C. Bear's glove. Before the game, Fergus Falls-based groups Cornerstone Lodge and Birak Shrine Club hosted a tailgate party at the Zuhrah Shrine Center in Minnetonka. "We had hot dogs, chips, beanbag throwing, DJ, a Lightning McQueen car, I think we had 900 people," said Ron Wilcox, president of the Birak Shrine Club. This is their second year helping with the tailgate party.

Stittsworth Meats out of Bemidji donated hot dogs and brats and the Stittsworth family, Myke, Danielle, and their children, were there serving them out. Gina and John Christopherson of G'Mariecee Portrait Studios were at the party, too, taking free photos of guests with a variety of baseball-based props.

Unfortunately, clouds that had been looming for most of the day finally turned to rain toward the end of the party, driving the crowd under tents or indoors. It didn't let up for another three hours, causing a rain delay at the baseball game, but the celebratory mood of guests and Keilan himself never diminished.

Eighteen buses and two vans drove people to the tailgate party, and from the tailgate party to the game, with more supporters meeting the group at the game, adding up to about 1,200 tickets for people supporting Harmon's Heart of Baseball from all over Minnesota. "It's amazing seeing all these people coming together to support Harmon's Heart of Baseball, and really encouraging and cheering for people with disabilities," said Productive Alternatives director of development, Tammy Anderson. "It's been amazing." Harmon's Heart and the award are projects from Productive Alternatives, which is a nonprofit social services agency.

The Fergus Falls Veterans Home Choir was also out on the field on Saturday, singing the national anthem before the game during a break in the rain. Keilan and his coterie, who had to wait inside the Third Base Lounge for the rain to subside and for the water to be cleaned off the field, were able to watch them on TV, delighted to see them but a little disappointed they couldn't be out there together.

They'd been ushered into the lounge, which only had a few chairs, around 5:15 p.m. and didn't get out onto the field until around 7:45 p.m. People asked Keilan if he was nervous about his pitch, but he said he wasn't really feeling nervous. "This morning I was," he said, adding, "I bet you I'll get one more spat of nerves once I get into the stadium."

Jim Arvidson, who was waiting with Keilan in the lounge and has been with Harmon's Heart since the beginning, said, "We need to let people know how important it is to help people with special needs and disabilities. They need to know that these people are an important part of the community and can give something back."

After the ceremony, Keilan and his father, Steven, rejoined the 1,200 Harmon's Heart supporters in the stands and enjoyed the game, a fun and relaxing cap to a long, busy and rainy day.


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