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Today's Family Magazine

Students practice to earn donations toward hurricane relief

By Laura Lytle

In early November, students of all ages and musical/artistic talents at The Music Settlement (TMS) in Cleveland were working hard getting in extra hours of practice to earn money donations for their Pay to Play program to help hurricane victims.

Money raised will go to the One America Appeal for Hurricane Relief which gives 100% of every dollar donated to immediate hurricane relief recovery.  The appeal is backed by former presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  All donations are tax deductible.

The idea for Pay to Play came to The Music Settlement from one of their students, 10-year-old Ellen Hawkins, who spoke with her piano teacher and TMS piano department head, Arthur Kane. Mr. Kane then spoke with administrators to devise a charity campaign that included the TMS Center for Music, Center for Early Childhood and Center for Music Therapy.

Geri Presti, president & CEO of The Music Settlement said, “We have never done anything like this before and were inspired by Ellen’s caring spirit.  We felt it was a great idea to support other causes since we know directly the importance of giving back in our communities.  It expands our mission in a different venue.  The practice-thon is a unique new way for our students to express ones self and support others.”

“We chose the One America Appeal because 100% of donations go to the victims, and it gives donors flexibility to choose a specific city affected by recent hurricanes, and it was created by our past presidents.  We do not know the final donated amount yet, but we had very enthusiastic support when we announced the campaign to our students and their families.  We would definitely consider supporting another cause like this in the future,” added Presti.

Students were encouraged to make a difference through music and the arts in the Pay for Play program through playing minutes (based on practice, rehearsal or concert time).  Pledges were accepted as a sponsor for a flat amount or an amount based on minutes practiced or performed.

Ellen has been taking piano lessons at TMS for three years.  When she discussed the hurricane devastation with her family she knew that she wanted to do something about it.

Ellen’s mother, Tracy Hawkins, said, “Ellen has been challenged with diabetes since she was an infant and has always shown a connection with others that are different or down on their luck. 

It was on her mind when she spoke with her piano teacher.  We cannot believe the wonderful results of Ellen’s compassion for others.  We are so proud of her.”

While TMS Pay for Play student fundraising campaign was held November 1-14, donations are still accepted to the One America Appeal online at