By Celine Klosterman
Mark Forrest has traveled the globe performing for the likes of Pope John Paul II, former President Bill Clinton and actor Charlton Heston. But he’s made what he considers one of his biggest accomplishments for people less well known.
With his wife, Muriel, the Irish-American tenor and father of seven sons ages 2-15 started the Faith and Family Foundation, a now 10-year-old organization that works to support people and families with special needs. It runs an equipment-lending program for children with disabilities, offers therapeutic sports scholarships, and awards outstanding caregivers and people with disabilities annually.
The Forrests were inspired to start the organization after their third son, Francesco, was born with a “severely compromised” heart and died at five days old. And their second son, John Patrick, was diagnosed with a rare nerve disease that left him blind and reliant on a wheelchair.
Now, they’ve started Francesco’s Closet, based in their home state of Virginia, which lends wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment for free worldwide. And the Forrests’ foundation helps connect couples expecting a child with disabilities to families in similar situations: call (703) 350-3020.
Because of the challenges his family has faced, Mark Forrest stresses “the importance of living in the present and not taking the gift of life for granted.”
He hopes to bring that message to St. Alphonsus Church in Mount Pleasant when he sings there at 6:30 p.m. May 3. It will be his second visit to the parish in four years; his previous concert “was very well received,” said Larry Maher. He is a St. Alphonsus parishioner who led efforts to bring Mark Forrest to the parish.
“I was very impressed with Mark’s vocal talent, his choice of songs and especially the story of his life trials and the ministry that has developed, the Faith and Family Foundation,” said Maher, who first attended a Forrest concert seven years ago in Fort Madison.
The May 3 concert will feature spiritual staples such as “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Ave Maria,” Broadway hits and patriotic tunes like “God Bless the USA.”
“It’s a great family event,” said the singer, who came to the United States in 1990 with a music scholarship for the Catholic University of America. “There’ll be something for everyone.”
James Thompson, a Mount Pleasant native, will also perform.
Concert proceeds benefit the Faith and Family Foundation. Tickets are available for $15 at the St. Alphonsus Parish office, (319) 385-8410 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Before the concert, a light meal will be served for a freewill offering from 4:30-6:15 p.m.
For more information on the Forrests’ ministry, visit www. faithandfamilyfoundation.org.