After six hours and three different trips in front of the judges last Saturday, Sarah, who was born with Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA) and is blind, was invited to sing before tomorrow night’s first preseason game at Sun Life Stadium between the Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The two-hour drive from Naples with her parents, Greg and Susan Hardwig, proved worthwhile and made her feel a little better about missing out on the last day of her summer camp.
“She’s been in a Lighthouse for the Blind camp all month and there was a picnic (Saturday) that was a finale and we had to make a decision,” said Greg Hardwig, who is the sports editor at the Naples Daily News. “It was really a little bit of mommy and daddy pushing her to do this because she’s made some great friends and she wanted to see them one last time. But she got to say good-bye to the volunteers and all of the kids on Thursday and we gave them all a gift.”
It was Sarah’s gift of pulling on the heartstrings of anyone listening to her sing that caught the attention of the judges. She managed to stand out from the 350 singers of all different ages that showed up at Sun Life Stadium while the team held a scrimmage on the field.There were solo singers, groups and performers with instruments making their way through the suites all morning and afternoon. Sarah was wearing a Miami Dolphins jersey with
“There is no denying that Sarah is an adorable little girl, but on top of that, Sarah has so much feeling in her little voice that we couldn’t overlook her,” said Jamie Quadrozzi, entertainment and cheerleaders coordinator for the Dolphins. “She was truly a tiny gem in a sea of huge singers. We are so glad we found her.”
This will not be Sarah’s first time performing the anthem in public as she actually has done it 11 other times. Most recently she sang at a Fort Myers Miracle baseball game, the minor-league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and she also has performed at Opera Naples, KidzAct Youth Theater and the Winged Foot Scholarship Banquet.
Sarah will get to warm up her vocal chords tomorrow morning singing "Over The Rainbow" to open the Collier County School Board meeting, and then she will make that drive across Alligator Alley again in order to go through a dress rehearsal three hours before kickoff. She admitted to Quadrozzi after her final audition that she’d be nervous singing in front of such a large crowd but immediately followed that by saying she has no doubts she can do it.
“I am an old pro at this,” Sarah said. “I was excited at first but then I got a little bit scared. Once I got over the nerves I was fine and I can’t believe I’m going to get to do this at a Dolphins game. It’s a song that I love to sing and this will be like my big moment.”
It will be an even bigger moment for her parents, who have spent tireless hours helping their daughter fulfill her dreams of becoming a singer. Sarah is a big country music fan so Greg and Susan have taken her to as many concerts as they can get to.
Now that their daughter is about to take the big stage at Sun Life Stadium, they can act as spectators at her concert and take in the reaction of the fans on hand.
“We’re very proud of her,” Greg said. “It was a long day but she did a great job. It was a lot of waiting but I think she was more nervous to go through the first part just because she hadn’t done it in a while and she didn’t know what to expect. But once she got through that and the judges told her, ‘Look, you’ve got a great voice, just relax and we want you to go through to the next round,’ she got more confident. She’s got enough experience doing it where she knows how to sing it the way she can sing it and she did that for the last one for sure.”
Additional singers were selected from the auditions to sing the anthem in future games that are not already booked with national acts.