By Emily Muller & Shira Strongin:
On Friday, June 10th, Christina Grimmie, age 22, was fatally shot after a concert in Orlando where she was doing a meet-and-greet with fans. Christina was a talented and successful vocal artist, who placed third on the popular television show The Voice, and toured with artists such as, Selena Gomez and Rachel Platten. She was a supporter of the rare disease community, and performed at the 2015 Global Genes Tribute to Champions of Hope last year.
When The Mighty reached out to us after hearing of Christina’s passing to write a tribute article, we jumped at the opportunity to be able to honor a person so special to not only us, but the entire rare community. Putting together this article reminded us of just how many people's lives she touched with her generosity, compassion, and spirit. She had a tremendous impact on us both personally, she will never be forgotten. Christina will live on in our hearts, and through memories we hold close.
I first met Christina at the 2015 Global Genes Tribute to Champions of Hope. I was being honored as the 2015 RARE Champion of Hope - Teen Advocate. I was so nervous, yet excited, and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I began to walk down the blue carpet with cameras flashing in my face and people pulling at me for interviews. I clung to my fellow honoree and friend, Madi Vanstone. I'm sure I looked like a lost puppy or a fish out of water. That's when I turned and saw Christina walking down the blue carpet, confidently just doing her thing - posing, working the interviews, totally calm, and in control. After both of us were finished she came over to me and asked if this was my first time "doing a carpet," I nodded anxiously. She told me not to worry about it, that "it [would] probably get easier every time' (she didn't want to over promise.) We then had a nice little chit chat about hair dye and I felt better about everything. This was the moment I knew we would become friends.
That's just the kind of person Christina was (it's heartbreaking to go from saying "is" to "was" about a person so lively and spirited) if she saw someone in need of help, she was the first one there. Whether small, like a freak out over a first time "doing a carpet," or something big like coming to the Global Genes Denim Dash just to be supportive of the cause, and not even for any publicity. I'm lucky I was able to have called Christina a friend and to have known her and her family for even the short time I did. She had unshakeable faith, was so humble, witty, and big-hearted. She will most certainly be missed.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Christina, but I can tell you that in the rare disease community she was known for her kindness just as much as she was known for her incredible talent. Recently, I watched a video of Christina performing at the 2015 Tribute to Champions of Hope in which she noted that when she looked around she saw “amazing people that work so hard and keep pushing on to create awareness.” Through her devotion to the rare community, she truly became one of those people. Christina was one of the first supporters of a project that I’m working on called “We Are More,” an initiative hoping to change the way young adults with illness and disability are seen by society. She really wanted young people with illness and disability to continue to have ambitions, dreams, and hopes for the future. The fact that she had so much faith in our mission to empower young people and encourage them to dream makes it all the more tragic that someone robbed her future hopes and dreams of her. Although Christina’s life was ended by a senseless act of violence, the impact that she made on the rare disease community will never fade. I know that I’ll always be thankful that she believed in us.
In the wake of this senseless act of violence, we gathered friends from the rare disease community to share either a story, a quote, or a memory - something that truly captured who she was. These statements come from patients, entertainers, and advocates alike. We were both lucky enough to have been personally impacted by Christina, whether it be through her being one of the first to believe in and support a cherished initiative, or through a special friendship. We hope that you can find some joy and solace in these recollections. We know we did.
"[Christina] was a wonderful, beautiful person inside and out, both on stage and off. She was an incredible inspiration for the rare disease community in her too short life. She was an emblem of youth advocacy. And in that aspect, we were one and the same."
“The world knows Christina through her videos and music. I was fortunate to get to know the young woman behind the voice. Christina was goofy, caring and devoted to her faith. At the Global Genes Tribute to Champions of Hope, where she gave an impromptu acapella performance (due to sound issues) , she cooly laughed off the technical difficulty stating ‘the piano was just a stage prop.’ That was Christina, seeing the silver lining to everything. Her sound will be missed, but her legacy of compassion will live on.”
Jesse Marimat, Patient Advocate
"Christina was the type of person who you could meet and feel like you've been her friend for years," [Travis] explains. "She had a diamond heart and was so giving. I only had the gift of knowing her for less than a year, but her charisma, talent, and enthusiasm for life were inspiring to me far before I had the pleasure of calling her my friend. Her legacy will continue to touch lives forever. She and her family are beloved by so many and my deepest prayers go out to them, as well as all of her friends and fans."
"I had the honor of performing with Christina at the Global Genes Gala in Huntington Beach last year. Her performance that night is one I will never forget. While she was playing her set, her piano gave out due to technical difficulties. This is an uncomfortable situation to be in while hundreds are watching, but Christina was unfazed. She quickly reacted by grabbing the mic and delivering an a cappella performance that left the crowd in awe and garnered a well deserved standing ovation. Christina was a true professional but more importantly, a true artist. She touched the lives of many through her kindhearted personality and unbelievable raw talent. Her music will live on forever."
“For years, Christina Grimmie had always been the beautiful voice with the captivating persona that I'd watch YouTube videos of on repeat. It wasn't until last September that I began to see the girl behind the beautiful voice. The girl who spent her free weekends at charity events, who lent her platform to those who had none. I actually met Christina through a charity, Global Genes. She was at their 2015 gala as a guest, friend, and performer. After a great couple of songs, she was ready to sing again when, completely out of nowhere, the audio stopped working. It reminded me of a Michael J. Fox quote, "Things are going great; then you hit a wall and things change. I think it says a lot by how you react to that." And as everyone in the audience was waiting to see how this tiny, beautiful musician would react to no music, she laughs it off and puts everyone at ease, and continues to happily sing a Capella, and MAN can she sing. In the short while that I got to live in her light, I didn't have a worry in the world. By being in the same room as her, I felt safe and comfortable. She was one who saw everyone as an equal, and who showed her faith through her actions. You didn't have to see her post a Bible verse to know she was a woman of faith. You could tell by the love, compassion and acceptance that she welcomed you with. It's my greatest hope that I can honor Christina by living my life as she lived her's: completely, brightly, and confidently, even when the music goes out.”
Madison McLaughlin, Actress, Advocate
“We are heartbroken to hear the news about our friend Christina Grimmie. She was extremely talented with such a kind heart. She used her platform to not only increase positivity in this world, but to help raise awareness and funds for numerous causes. Christina was a selfless rare disease activist and has left a lasting impression with personal friendships she made in the rare community.We will never forget how she silenced a room and moved people to tears with her amazing acapella performance at the Tribute to Champions of Hope last year. She has left an untouchable legacy and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
Global Genes, Rare Disease Non-Profit Organization
Christina supported the entire rare community. If you can, please consider giving back by donating to her family and supporting them through this difficult time. Or, consider signing this petition that would help Christina be remembered in the next Legend of Zelda game, which was her favorite game of all time.
This post can be viewed on The Mighty.