Born blind and diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler, 17-year-old Marlana VanHoose has had an amazing impact upon her Kentucky community. She’s an an incredible talent who has had to overcome many obstacles in her short life, including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a form of herpes virus which typically affects the salivary glands and which can eventually lead to toxioplasmosis, rubella, and even cancer.
Marlana was originally given a very grim prognosis: she was not expected to survive more than a year. And yet, the Johnson Central high school student has not only survived, she’s managed to share an outstanding gift with others in her community and across the nation.
Marlana has been playing piano, which she learned by ear, since the age of two years old—long before she had access to any sort of training or instruction. Her singing voice is also nothing short of angelic, as a series of online videos demonstrates. Her rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home” in the opening ceremonies of the Kentucky Special Olympics in 2011 was stunning.
“I like to give people hope and strength to live from singing and from encouraging people,” the teen says. She received fame in April 2013 when a video of her singing the national anthem at a February University of Kentucky women’s basketball game went viral, gaining over 600,000 views on YouTube. She has also showcased her voice at NASCAR’s Quaker State 400.
Now, a new video of Marlana has surfaced, in which she sings “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” at Tim Farmer’s Homemade Jam at the University of Kentucky during a celebration and festival showcasing Kentucky’s musical talent. In the last month, this video has racked up over 18,000 views.
“I genuinely like to sing to people who are lost,” Marlana says. “That probably helps a lot of people feel like they’re found.”
After hearing her moving rendition of “Amazing Grace,” it’s easy to see how people might feel uplifted emotionally and spiritually, “like they’re found,” in the angelic strains Marlana shares with the world. She has even been featured on the CBS News “Young Innovator” series that shares the stories of teenagers who are leaving their handprints on the world.
Marlana certainly has left her handprints—and voice print—on the world, and will continue to do so for many years to come. She’s released her first CD of gospel music! Enjoy these videos of Marlana singing “Amazing Grace” followed by a TV news piece about Marlana and her love for music.