By Michele J. Kuhn
RED BANK – The gift of music here is being used to help provide the gift of medical care and education in Uganda.
Private music teacher Annie Breen has organized “Music Marathon for Medicine” to benefit the organization Change A Life Uganda with the help of two students, Judy and Timmy Cusack, and their parents Dr. Evelyn Wells and Tim Cusack.
The event will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 325 Little Silver Point Road, Little Silver. The marathon, which will feature music by a host Breen’s students, will benefit Change of Life Uganda’s Money for Medicine program.
Breen, whose father lives in Africa, has stressed community service to her students and, rather than perform in recitals, her students share their talents for the benefit others.
Breen joined with Wells, Cusack and their children because of their association with Change A Life Uganda.
“We’re grateful to Annie because it was her idea to have a music marathon,” Wells said.
“Eventually, through this organization, we’re trying to bring water there. We’re trying to bring the clinic up to speed to be a fully running hospital. The school is there,” she said. “There are so many things we need to keep going.”
The Wells-Cusack family of Tinton Falls became involved in the Change A Life Uganda – the fundraising arm of Change A Life Uganda Foundation, run by the Rev. Lawrence Kimbowa in Uganda – after Wells went to Migyera, Uganda, on a medical mission with a team from Jersey Shore Medical Center where she is an emergency room physician.
The team from the hospital has joined with Change A Life Uganda, which operates in Jackson and has been making trips to Uganda since 2006. “We decided to link up because they had multiple things going on. They were building a well, there was a school, they were sponsoring children and they were setting up a clinic,” Wells said.
The hospital team went to Uganda in 2010 and then in 2012 for the opening day of the new health clinic.
Wells describes Change A Life Uganda as “a group of dedicated people who want to help change the lives of others” with an emphasis on education and health care.
During the past summer, the family went to Uganda on a two-week trip Tim Cusack calls “life changing.”
“We wanted to get our children involved,” Wells said.
While Wells worked in the clinic, Tim, Judy and Timmy Cusack went to teach chess to the children in the St. Joseph’s Primary School in Nabbingo, Uganda, but ended up offering their instruction and friendship in three area schools.
“We made tremendous friends and improvements and we continue to speak to them,” said Tim Cusak, who is in contact almost every day via Facebook and email with the people they met in Uganda.
The trip proved eye opening for the Cusacks.
Judy Cusack, who is 12, saw that people in Uganda often “struggled without help … Not a lot of kids can go to school there because they can’t afford it.
“I saw that they didn’t have as much stuff as we have,” she said. “I saw how they go get their water, how they had to walk to school and walk to the water and, after walking that far, they got to water that was dirty from all the mud.”
Her experience spurred her on to earn money to sponsor a child’s education at a nondenominational school, which costs $360 a year. Judy already has collected two-third of the money needed to sponsor a child and thinks she will surpass her goal. She has made and sold rubber band bracelets, participated in other fundraising efforts and will be performing in the music marathon.
In addition to Judy and 10-year-old Timmy, many other students of Breen’s, ages 5 and older, have signed up to perform in the marathon.
While the suggested donation for the music marathon is $20 a person, donations in lieu of cash are also being sought. Needed items include hygiene and medical supplies, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant and other toiletries, adhesive bandages and Ace bandages.
New socks, children’s undergarments and pajamas or slightly used clothing, including shorts, shirts, shoes, jackets and coats will also be collected.
“We’re hoping to raise a few dollars. It’s amazing what a few dollars can do there,” Cusack said.