After 10 years of chronic depression, the Bealeton resident has found renewed hope through music and faith.
Virginia Ventura travels 90 minutes each week from her home to Richmond to pursue her dream of playing music.
A paraplegic since age 6 because of Transverse Myelitis, Ms. Ventura has suffered from severe depression since middle school.
Transverse Myelitis “was pretty much an overnight thing,” said Ms. Ventura, 25. “I went to sleep and I woke up and couldn’t move my legs.
“I remember my parents crying all the time when this happened. You don’t get it when you’re 6, and you don’t think this is going to change your life,” she said. “I guess it wasn’t until my teenage years when it affected me more.”
Before her depression, Ms. Ventura played viola for two years in school and took piano lessons.
“When I picked up an instrument, it felt natural to me,” she said. “It’s something that never left my mind. I remember how proud and happy I would feel playing.”
Through a one-year music scholarship from Passion Arts Foundation near Richmond, Ms. Ventura can pursue music again.
Last year she started to make progress in overcoming depression.
“When I was at my lowest, I opened my heart to God, and it’s gotten better,” she said.
“My depression stole a lot of being a kid,” Ms. Ventura explained. “Now I have this mindset of do what makes you happy. Picking up the violin was definitely on the top of that list.”
Determined, Ms. Ventura turned to the Internet and searched for a studio where she could rekindle her love of music.
In July she found Passion Academy in Henrico County and decided to email the staff about possible scholarships.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting a response. But, I said a little prayer to God before I sent the email,” Ms. Ventura said.
A few days later she heard from Passion Academy Founder and President Derek Smith, who had chosen her as the foundation’s first scholarship recipient.
“I would say the main reason we decided is because she has overcome a lot of pain in her life,” Mr. Smith said. “This is a perfect example of what we want to do for other people.”
Unable to work because of a recent illness, Ms. Ventura received $2,000 worth of music lessons and a violin from the nonprofit foundation.
The Passion Arts Foundation, founded about six months ago, hopes to give out about 10 scholarships a year, funded with donations and the proceeds from benefit concerts.
Over the next year, she will learn to play the violin, drums, piano, electric guitar and how to produce music. Lessons take place on Mondays for about 90 minutes.
“It makes me feel like I have some sort of purpose,” she said. “Thanks to Passion Academy, it will allow me to live my dreams.
“It’s very calming and peaceful. It gets my mind off things.”
With newfound determination and hope, Ms. Ventura plans to enter the 2018 Ms. Wheelchair Virginia pageant and raise enough money through a GoFundMe page to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
“I think that’s another cause for my depression is being held down by other people’s schedules or staying home because it’s too difficult to go out,” she said. “Me getting a car, I see that as being another catalyst. It’s going to open so many other opportunities for me.”
One day she hopes to compete in the Paralympic Games.
Ms. Ventura strives to inspire others with depression to pursue their passions and dreams.
“I feel like a lot of people get so caught up in jobs that they forget to work on themselves, on their hearts,” Ms. Ventura said. “If you have a passion, just don’t put excuses up. Go ahead and do it. The reward is going to be so much better than the risk you think will happen.”
Click below to watch interview with Virginia Ventura.