Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Willis Siblings Advance on "America's Got Talent" Despite Klum's Critique

The performers' aunts and uncles perished in the van crash that led to George Ryan's corruption conviction

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Willis Siblings Advance on "America's Got Talent"

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

The Willis Clan advanced to the next round on NBC's "America's Got Talent" Wednesday after mixed reviews from the judges' panel.

All were in favor except Heidi Klum, arguing that "vocally, they're not strong enough." But Howard Stern defended the Von Trapp-esque band of 12 siblings, calling them "the cutest damn act ever."

The telegenic group -- ranging in age from 3 to 22 -- performed a country rendition of Owl City's "Fireflies," and exuding enough homespun charisma to melt Stern's cynical heart, the vocals were a bit strained.

The Willises are the children of Toby Willis, who lost six brothers and sisters in the horrific 1994 van crash that that led to an Illinois investigation linking the accident to former Gov. George Ryan's licenses-for-bribes scandal.

Toby recently told NBC 5, "Life goes on. ... I wanted to make sure that people knew that we weren't just going to be just sad the rest of our life."

Ryan was released from federal prison last July after serving five years for corruption. In his first interview since his probation expired earlier this month, he said he prays for the late Willis children daily but feels no responsibility for their deaths.

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