Saturday afternoon through evening was a
testimony to this, as a group of parents and
students from Chester-East Lincoln held a
fundraiser at Friendship Manor.
The fundraiser created the seed money for
the Austin's Song scholarship fund, which
will provide musical instruments to children
who might not otherwise be able to
participate in band classes in school. The
scholarship is being established in honor
and memory of Austin Gee, an 11-year-old
Chester-East Lincoln student who lost his
life in the brutal slayings of the Gee
family last fall.
Austin loved music. He sang in the school
chorus program and played alto saxophone in
the school band.
In chorus he participated in the Illinois
Music Educators Association regional
fifth-grade year and was hoping to be able
to do so again this school year.
In band, he was well thought of and
served as an inspiration to his peers,
helping some of them to also become
interested in music and playing instruments.
According to C-EL music teacher Sarah
Crim, it was the parent of one such inspired
child who came to her and suggested that the
parents and students do something to honor
Austin, such as provide instruments for
Robert Hoeff's son was a good friend of
Austin and even began playing alto sax
because of that friendship. Crim said that
it was Hoeff who really got the ball rolling
on setting up the scholarship fund.
Soon, though, other parents started
getting involved, including Jeramy Berglin,
who has a child in band and is the manager
of the kitchen at Friendship Manor.
Crim said she heard from Berglin one day
that if the group wanted to do a dinner
fundraiser, he could make the dining hall at
the facility available to them.
With a good head of steam, the group
rolled on. A dinner was planned and a bake
The students sold advance tickets, the
food was all donated, special music was
planned, and everything just came together.
Saturday afternoon, the group saw the
fruit of their work. As a steady stream of
people lined the far wall of the dining
room, tables were already filled with people
enjoying a good meal. Every half-hour or so
the young people of the C-EL chorus got up
and offered a song under Crim's direction.
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A little after 5 p.m., with two hours
remaining in their event, the scholarship
fund had acquired $2,400, with the promise
of more to come.
Crim said that raising this kind of money
was essential if the scholarship is to
provide one musical instrument per child per
On the low side the cost of a flute runs
around $500, and larger brass instruments
such as French horns can cost up to around
Crim said that with what they have raised
they can guarantee one child will be offered
the opportunity to learn and love music as
In addition to these funds, the group is
also asking that parents or older students
who are no longer involved in band consider
donating their good used instruments to the
scholarship fund. She said that donated
instruments will certainly be put to good
use, once again giving another child an
opportunity he or she might not otherwise
get to play.
Crim said that when selecting a student
to receive an instrument, there will be a
process involved. Students under
consideration for the scholarship award will
need to be well-rounded with noted good
behavior and good grades, plus they will be
students whose family would suffer a
hardship if they had to try to purchase an
instrument on their own.
So once again, the residents of Lincoln
and Logan County have come to the aid of a
While nothing will erase the tragedy of
the Gee family, doing things to honor them,
keep them in good memory and help someone
else along the way will always be
[By NILA SMITH]