Gina's Song

Wow! What a voice!

It's surprising that a little girl, with a wide eyed stare that seems so matter of fact, could belt out tunes so profoundly, with such a self-assured presence.

And to think, her parents were told, "she'd never speak."

That's the miracle, the inspiration of Gina Marie Incandela, a seven year old Orlando girl who's not only a model for kids, but could teach anyone how to fulfill a dream.

Gina Singing at the Mets Game
Gina Singing at the U.S. Open

But Gina's journey was a little different, more difficult in some ways, and thanks to parents who listened and offered support, a little easier in others.

You see Gina was diagnosed at the age of two with a mild form of autism called Pervasive Development Disorder. It not only impaired her speech, but her social skills, her fine motor capacity, and her language development.

But thanks to early diagnosis, her parents placed her in occupational therapy and intensive speech therapy which continues today. Progress was slow at first, until they introduced Gina to music. Taking music therapy with Mrs. Theresa Evans unlocked the development door. Her school work improved, she got along better with her peers, and something else. She actually had talent. Her mom, Michelle Incandela said, "Even if she could only sing the vowel parts of the song, she would sing it in perfect pitch and perfect key. I was really something spectacular."

Gina was about to give them another spectacle. At five years old, she heard the national anthem on TV and declared she could sing it better. And she said she wanted to sing at a major league ball game. Her mother couldn't believe it. But instead of tossing the notion aside, she found a try-out for a Spring Training game for the New York Mets. She won an audition, and soon, was standing on the pitchers mound belting out the patriotic tune.

Gina was in demand. After just a year, she's sung in hockey arenas, ballparks, conventions and hometown games of the Orlando Magic. She became the team's good luck charm, singing at nine playoff games, including three NBA Finals.

All the attention was a bit nerve-wracking for her mom, who said, "you're sending your child out there, in the middle of the field, and you just have to pray that nothing goes wrong and hope that audiences like her."

But Gina was right in her element.

I asked her what was the hardest part of singing before thousands of people? And without missing a beat, Gina replied, "It's a piece of cake. The happiest day of my life is when I'm singing."

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