Michael Ketterer has a heart of gold we're used to only seeing in fictional characters on TV -- like This Is Us' doting dad Jack Pearson. But the pediatric nurse and father of six is totally real, and becoming a huge sensation after earning the Golden Buzzer on America's Got Talent this week.
Only ET's Denny Directo was with Ketterer and his family at their California home on Thursday, where he reflected on how his life has changed since pursuing his dream and introduced us to the amazing kids he's doing it all for.
"It's really been surreal. I did not expect the amount of just people wanting to get in touch with me... I had no idea this would happen," he confessed of the attention after wowing the judges with his rendition of The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." "I mean, family, friends, strangers, I've been getting so many messages just congratulating me and letting me know like, 'Oh, I was in tears. It was moving. You inspired me'... All of the things are amazing."
Ketterer's singing success has been a long time coming. Years before he married his high school sweetheart, Ivey, the America's Got Talent contestant grew up singing in church.
"When I was three or four, I was always on stage singing. It was something that I've always grown up doing, and it is a dream of mine absolutely to do music," he recalled. "But as you go through life, you start realizing other things that kind of mean more to you than even your greatest dreams, and I think to me it was being able to adopt these children and being able to impact them, the lives of children. That's just such a powerful thing."
Ketterer and his wife decided to pursue adoption when their daughter, Sophie, was 6 years old and asked for brothers. The couple went on to adopt five boys from foster care, starting with brothers Jared, Chase and Jeriah. Then came Sean, who at one point was homeless on the streets, and then Rodrigo, a 9-year-old boy who suffers from cerebral palsy. "Rody," as the Ketterers call him, wasn't able to communicate until he met his new family.
"Rody, when we first got him, he couldn't talk, and he couldn't speak, because he was a shaken infant. He was abused by his caregiver, and that's what gave him cerebral palsy," Ketterer said. "Once we got him, 'cause he couldn't speak, he loved to hear the music, and he loved to feel the rhythm of the music, so I would spend a lot of my time communicating with him through song."
On AGT, Ketterer is hoping to meld his two passions, and use his platform to shine a light on foster care and mental health.
"You know, in a lot of ways it is [taking time for myself], but then at the same time, I hope that any light that gets shone on me gets shone down unto these children," he shared. "Being involved in foster care, you just really get to see the need that's out there. Being involved in mental health, you really see the stigma and the way that these kids are treated. I think for me, I really hope that I can have some part in changing that."
And whether he walks away victorious or not, Ketterer's family couldn't be more proud of his AGT journey. "He is so inspiring. I mean, what is so amazing about our kids is here is a man who can take all of the spotlight for himself, but he shared the love for his children and to inspire people, so I just hope that they walk away with the quality of a man that he is," gushed Ivey, who plans to be at the live shows with all six kids, as well as Ketterer's parents.
"I feel like I have more confidence now right getting on that stage. I'm sure it'll have its moments, its things that are difficult, but as far as like, nervous, hopefully I wont be as nervous," Ketterer confessed. "We're really excited."
America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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