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Marlana VanHoose, who is blind, sings flawless national anthem

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When she escorts her daughter to a court or a stage, Teresa VanHoose always feels at least a tad anxious.

Not Marlana.

“I’m never nervous, and I don’t cry,” Marlana tells Thrive Sports. “I just love to sing.

“It takes my worries away.”

Marlana is blind and has cerebral palsy, and doctors didn’t expect her to live past a year. But she’s 18 now, and she’s blessed with a voice that’s both powerful and angelic.

Kentucky guard Bria Goss led all scorers with 17 points in the Wildcats’ 64-59 NCAA tournament victory over Syracuse at Memorial Coliseum Monday night.

But Marlana got the standing ovation, after her stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Some performers build to a crescendo; Marlana immediately hits the high notes and sustains that energy and emotion throughout the song.

“I’ve watched American Idol, The X Factor, America’s Got Talent and The Voice almost every season,” one commenter posted under one of her YouTube performances. “Your voice is amazing! You definitely need to be on one of these shows!

“America will fall in love with your voice, your story and of course you!”

EARLY GIFT

Marlana was born with Cytomegalovirus, a relatively common – and rarely serious – infection. But Marlana’s infection rendered her blind at birth, and doctors worried about her development.

After a year, though, her body healed from the virus.

Then her parents saw a glimpse of her gift.

Before she could talk, she would hum, “Jesus Loves Me.”

“It would calm her down,” Teresa recalled.

By 2 ½, Marlana started listening to gospel music and playing the keyboard.

“When she was 3, she would lay on the floor and sing,” Teresa said, and you could tell she could really sing.”

Marlana CBS

Marlana’s parents, Teresa and David, both worked jobs that required a high-degree of patience and grace. Teresa is a special needs teacher in Kentucky, while David worked in a federal prison.

Marlana, for instance, has to deal with a little brother who, as Teresa said, “aggravates her.”

“It’s been a challenge,” Teresa said. “It’s been rough. But I thought, ‘I’m going to treat her like anyone else.’

“Of course, you can’t do it completely like everybody else.”

But what she loves most about her daughter is her optimism, her refusal to ever feel sorry for herself.

“But she has a very good attitude,” Teresa said. “She doesn’t feel she has a disability.”

In one of her videos, Marlana said, “I’m blind, but I want to see when I get to heaven.”

INSPIRING OTHERS

She’s performed at college basketball games and the Kentucky Speedway, and she always moves people. In 2013, she was featured in a CBS News series called, “Young Innovators.”

“The standing ovation that she got was the longest I could ever remember,” Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell reportedly said, after Marlana sang the national anthem before Kentucky played Ole Miss in 2012.

Marlana Hoops

Marlana receives a lot of messages on Facebook, including one her mother remembered well.

“The person was having trouble in their life, and they watched her sing, and it made it all better,” Teresa recalled. “That was really touching.”

She sings an impressive version of At Last, but she also likes “Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey and hits from contemporary artists like Adele.

So it’s not surprising that Marlana aspires to sing for a living.

Her dream?

“I want to travel around the world and sing and also get together a Dream Team,” she said. “Every single gospel singer, southern contemporary (artist), and we’re going to make a Dream Team choir, and I’m going to conduct it.”

Who is going to tell her that’s not possible?

Check out another of her performances below:

Photo Credit: Yakkity Yaksimgur

To learn more about Marlana, visit her website by clicking here.

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Sean Jensen

Sports reporting demanded I cover at least 15 Super Bowls (lost count), 2 Olympics and too many close Minnesota Vikings losses to count. Also required me to play Augusta National once. But my close friends are more jealous of my eating records (among them 125 chicken wings and 24 donuts). My priorities: Faith, Family and... oh, I've forgotten the third F.

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