Because you can

Overcoming life’s challenges is never easy, but all of us can draw inspiration from this year’s Miss Emerald Isle, Gina Raucci.

Gina, a junior at Foran High School, has spinal muscular atrophy. She wears leg braces to compensate for the muscle weakness caused by her condition.

For Raucci, something as simple as walking can sometimes prove a challenge.

Next weekend, on Saturday, March 9, Gina will help lead Milford’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. For her it will be a dream realized.

It won’t be the first time she’s ridden along the parade route. Her father has often driven one of the many parade vehicles, and sitting by his side was his daughter Gina.

As reported last week, Raucci has wanted to be Miss Emerald Isle ever since she was a small child, riding in the parade with her father.

She has a disability, and like many teenagers, or for that matter, like many adults, the young woman most likely struggles with fear, doubt and insecurity.

But those fears and doubts didn’t stop her from realizing a victory.

She applied for the title of Miss Emerald Isle with some lingering doubts that she would win the title.

But any hope, however faint, is all any of us truly need, she pointed out during subsequent speaches and interviews.

Life is often challenging, and many people sometimes feel as if they are born to lose, but folks like Gina Raucci remind others what it is to live.

“My disability is just a challenge I have to deal with,” Gina said at last week’s fund-raising dinner.

Each of us is challenged in some way, and it helps to recognize the challenges we think are somehow unique to ourselves. In some part, our challenges are how we define ourselves, how we limit ourselves.

Gina asked a poignant question at the dinner. “Is someone telling you that you can’t?” she asked. “Because you can.”

Often it is we who are telling ourselves we can’t. When faced with a challenge, we often see only our limitations. We define ourselves by those limitations.

But that’s not who Gina Raucci wants to be. And it’s not how she defines herself or who she is.

Gina Raucci remains undaunted by her challenge and she remains stubborn in the face of the nay-sayers. Being crowned Miss Emerald Isle is but one little victory.

She is an inspiration.

The Milford St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be Saturday, March 9, at 1 p.m. in downtown Milford, starting at the Parsons Complex. The parade, one of the city’s premeir events, attracts an estimated 20,000 people to downtown Milford.

Organizer Martin Hardiman has said it is one of the ultimate family-friendly events, providing not just entertainment for those who come to watch but also a venue for local organizations, from high school bands to Scout troops, to display their community spirit.

Milford is ready to shine Saturday when this year’s parade steps off.

The parade rain date is Saturday, March 16.