Teen's big voice shatters obstacles

A teen with a big voice 02:57

(CBS News) DENVER, Ky. - For our "Young Innovator" series, we've been profiling some extraordinary young people making their marks on the world while still in their teens. This time, we spotlight Marlana VanHoose, who can't see her mark --- but all of us can certainly hear it.

Watch Marlana show her piano skills:

At the end of a dirt lane in Denver, Kentucky, lives a little girl with a big voice.

You might not know from just looking at her, but Marlana VanHoose is 17. She came into this world with a ton of challenges -- born blind and diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two.

Did she ever feel like it's too much the challenges that have been put in her lap? "Not way too much," she replied.

Watch Marlana sing the national anthem:

"Gospel music just calmed me down," said Marlana.

She also arrived with some extraordinary gifts, such as sitting down and playing songs on the piano by ear also at two--and opening her mouth to find an angel's voice ringing out.

But perhaps her most valuable gift is her ability to inspire, like at the Kentucky Special Olympics, where she first opened the show and then competed.

"I like to give people hope and strength to live," said Marlana. "From singing and from encouraging people."

Watch Marlana sing "Amazing Grace":

Marlana always carries a tape recorder -- it's how she learns lyrics -- which isn't foolproof. She does forget them from time to time. "It don't embarrass me," she said, "but it's like, 'Uh-oh. Got to keep going.'"

She added: "I genuinely sing to people who are lost." That probably helps a lot of people feel like they're found.

This teen will appear on her biggest stage so far Saturday night when she sings the national anthem in front of 107,000 NASCAR fans at the Quaker State 400 in Kentucky -- make that 107,000 lucky NASCAR fans who'll get to see her.

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  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.