July/August 2009

Above & Beyond

As she walked on stage to sing “America the Beautiful,” Crystal Martinez, 14, says she could hear her heart racing over the roar of NASCAR engines nearby. “I had a million nerves running through me, but as soon as I looked out into the crowd, it all went away,” she says.

NASCAR's Denny Hamlin poses with Crystal Martinez (14) after her rendition of "America the Beautiful," this past April.
NASCAR's Denny Hamlin poses with Crystal Martinez (14) after her rendition of "America the Beautiful," this past April.

The welcoming crowd included NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and more than 5,500 NASCAR fans at the Southside Speedway in Richmond, Va., this past April.

Crystal began singing as a toddler, not long after she started speaking and before she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of eight.

When Crystal heard about Denny Hamlin’s support for CF research and treatment, she immediately asked how she could help. Hamlin personally asked her to sing at his Short Track Showdown, a charity race to benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation and the CF Foundation.

“It was so much fun and something I’ll definitely remember forever,” she raves. “My family and I got a tour of the pits, and we met Denny’s family and all of the drivers. Everyone was incredibly friendly.”

A Rising Talent

Since the age of four, Crystal has taken her music career from her hometown of Pocono Lake, Pa., all over the mid-Atlantic region. She sings with her church choir and performs at parties, vocal competitions and benefit concerts.

This summer, she’ll take the stage in a student production of “High School Musical” in Stroudsburg, Pa. She’s also looking forward to warming up a second NASCAR crowd at Pocono Raceway for the Pennsylvania 200 on August 1.

Crystal’s voice has touched thousands, but she also finds singing personally inspiring. “Singing motivates me when I’m really sick to get healthy and get out of the hospital as fast as possible,” she says. “When I perform, the audience thinks I'm just like everyone else.”

CF teen Crystal sings at the Lehigh Valley Idol competition in Pennsylvania.
Crystal at the Lehigh Valley Idol competition in Pennsylvania.
Although her schedule is packed with gigs, Crystal is devoted to the CF Foundation. She organized a Great Strides walk at a local school and also led her own team of family and friends. This year, Crystal started an annual benefit concert, “Sing for a Cure,” showcasing singers, instrumentalists and other artists in support of the CF Foundation.

Crystal doesn’t let hours of daily CF treatment get in her way. To help treat recent lung infections, her doctor inserted a PICC line to deliver antibiotics more efficiently, but that hasn’t stopped her from going to school, hanging out with friends and even auditioning for new roles.

“Most of the time, my CF isn’t so bad that I can’t do what I want to do,” Crystal says. “It just takes extra time to manage my treatments. Once I do, I can just go out there and lead a normal everyday life.”

When Crystal thinks about her future, she knows she wants to pursue a career in entertainment, but she tries not to get too caught up in thinking beyond today.

“CF kind of changes you. I always think about what’s happening right now in the present,” she adds, “You really have to live it up.” And with voice soaring, she does just that.

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