View images of Audrey Rose fulfill her dream of singing the National Anthem at Levi's Stadium.
Jim Walker and his family were devout Green Bay Packers fans until one play changed their fandom forever. While watching TV with his dad, Walker saw the Y.A. Tittle to R.C. Owens 'Alley Oop.' Whenever he played with his friends, he would try to be Owens. From then on, this family traded in their cheeseheads for a pick axe and joined the 49ers Faithful. Jim's bond to the team has always been strong, but has grown stronger watching his daughter, Audrey Rose, form her own connection with the team he loves.
Rose was a miracle birth. She was born blind, without eyeballs and a severe heart disease, but she doesn't let that stop her. When the 49ers hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 2, she was able to fulfill her dream and sing the National Anthem at Levi's® Stadium.
Here is a Q&A with these two members of the Faithful.
What drew you to the 49ers when your family became members of the Faithful in 1958?"I played football since I was about four-years old. My father was a hard working individual and gone almost every weekend, but it was so special when he would take me out and teach me to throw and catch.
"One day we were watching TV and my dad and I got really excited when a play called the 'Alley Oop' happened. After we saw it my dad said that I should learn the play and I did. My friends and I would play a lot of football, and we always wanted to be R.C. Owens and catch the Alley Oop! After that we became 49ers fans. Dad would use the games to help teach me to be a better player."
What about the 49ers organization has kept you a fan for over 50 years?"I have had contact with the 49ers all of my life. I played Pop Warner football in Menlo Park with YA Tittle's son. Then in high school Jim Plunkett, Randy Vataha and Gordy Soltau came to an awards meeting and spoke. In the 90's I helped the 49ers with community service. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would take grocery baskets and fill them with food and presents before walking to challenged neighborhoods with the players to bring holiday cheer. In the seven years I partook in this event, every one of the players were great, and I admired the joy they derived from helping others.
"In the 90's, I used to work 49ers games tracking down copyright infringement violators and was always treated well by 49ers employees."
What is you favorite 49ers memory?"As of Oct. 2, 2016, it has to be my beautiful nine-year old daughter having the courage and ability to perform an exemplary rendition of our National Anthem for the team I love. To see my little angel, whom we were told would probably be born dead, and struggling painfully emotionally and physically every single day, stand in front of a cheering, screaming crowd and remain composed and sing so wonderfully is beyond the ability of any father to adequately describe.
"Tears were streaming down my face and I remember every single second of watching my hero, my daughter Rose with the biggest smile I have seen in years on her face as the crowd cheered for her. Listening to the overwhelming roar of the fans that peaked at least four times during her song was euphoric. I was so filled with happiness and pride as Audrey inspired people with our National Anthem and filled those fans with joy, excitement and pride in their country. Seeing Cowboy's player Ezekiel Elliott, overcome with joy and running out onto the field and hugging and shaking her hand before telling her what a great job she did. That is what Audrey lives for. The affirmation and caring that comes from a player's handshake, hug, and kind words. I have never been so happy for my daughter's happiness in her 9 years of life. Bless the 49ers organization."
As a parent what has it been like to watch your daughter form her own connection with the 49ers?
"It has been satisfying and full of promise. Fear is Audrey's constant daily companion, but what the 49ers present to all children are experiences that build self-esteem and self-worth. I am heartened and excited for Audrey's future because I know that she can continue to feel safe and cared for at 49ers functions."
Can you describe the feelings you experienced when Audrey got to sing the National Anthem at Levi's® Stadium?"This miraculous event will serve her well into her adulthood and way beyond the fun of reliving this special experience on tape. The reliving of this exciting success will serve as one of Audrey's sole sources of affirmation and enjoyment for the rest of her life. Audrey will play this tape and tell the story of the day she walked the hallowed gridiron of the San Francisco 49ers and brought 70,000 plus fans and players to their feet to celebrate song and country because of her voice."
What was it like to have your dream become a reality and sing the National Anthem at Levi's® Stadium?"I felt very happy, I got to sing in front of 70,000 people and got to hear them cheering and stuff. I was glad that I got to make all of those people happy with my singing."
What is your first memory of being a 49ers fan?
"My first memory was meeting . I remember that I got up on stage and sang for him and 400 people. When I was onstage he even picked me up. We sat and watched the games and my daddy would explain the games to me."
Can you describe your feelings during the whole experience?
"I was excited leading up to the anthem. I was excited that I would be able to meet the players and have dinner with them so I can be more of a fan. It meant a lot to me and my family to be able to do this." Your performance inspired a lot of people, what inspires you day-to-day?
"The love from my family inspires me."
Audrey's performance left a resonating mark on members of both the 49ers and Cowboys.
Audrey Rose....inspiring....back to work — Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) October 3, 2016