By Romina Monaco
Everyone aspires to live the dream and Vince Benenati has done just that. As a young vocal artist searching for recognition in the competitive music industry, Vince made waves when he became a semifinalist on the hit television show, Canadian Idol. He passionately belted out Louis Armstrong's, "What a Wonderful World" in front of a CTV national audience and went on to sing the national anthem to a crowd of 19,000 at a Toronto Maple Leaf game at the Air Canada Centre. For the twenty-five year old, the road ahead was full of exciting opportunities. However, in 2010, with a new bride and baby on the way, he received devastating news. Vince was diagnosed with cancer.
A Toronto native of Italian descent, Vince grew up surrounded by an affectionate family. As a boy his days consisted of singing duets with Nonna Maria, as well as instruction on morality, family values and Sicilian tradition from Nonno Vincenzo. His grandparents, along with his mother Antonina, were instrumental in the development of his resilience that would deem crucial later on in life. Struggling with his parents divorce as well as being subjected to bullying at school ultimately led the teenager to an all-too-common coping mechanism - drugs.
At the age of eighteen he complied with his family and agreed to enter Caritas, a drug rehabilitation centre in Toronto. “Without the necessary tools and the support I received at Caritas I would not be able to cope with the challenges I face today.” he says. Vince resided at the facility for two years where he acquired the skills to live a healthy and productive life. Gaining confidence, he continued his education and became a certified auto mechanic. Yet Vince had a profound passion for music. As an amateur virtuoso of the pop genre, he chose to audition for Canadian Idol in 2005. He entertained judges with his humorous, charismatic personality and impressed them with a unique, raspy rendition of Volare. His true essence was reflected not only in his soulful voice but also in the positive way he continued to live life.
In 2009 Vince found love and married Zanet, the woman he refers to as his angel. One year later, after receiving the exciting news that she was pregnant, Vince was diagnosed with a rare combination of Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. “I couldn’t believe it. It was crushing” he says. To combat the growth, he received a stem cell transplant along with debilitating chemo and radiation treatments. In May 2012, awaiting the final results, he was sadly informed that the mass had metastasized. Vince’s only hope now is SGN-35, a clinical trial drug treatment not yet approved in Canada and he has courageously chosen to pursue this alternative.
If Vince’s lifelong triumphs be of any testament, then we know he will continue to fight. He emphatically states that “by staying positive, you’ve won half the battle”. He feels fortunate, saying that he has been blessed with the loving support of a large family, many friends, his community and God while gaining the greatest strength from his daughter, Nya, whose name ironically means purpose. “My wife and daughter are my purpose. Everything I do is for them.” he says. He does not pity himself nor does he have any regrets. He believes his experiences, good and bad, were an essential preparation for this, the biggest challenge of his life. Vince is an inspiration and role model to us all. When he stood on stage and symbolically sang Louis Armstrong’s heart-felt song, he believed it then as he believes it now, that it is indeed a wonderful world.
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