8th grader organizes benefit for Sandy Ground
By Mary Ann Bourbeau
RUMSON – An eighth-grader at The Rumson Country Day School is using his love of music to raise money for the benefit of area children.
Max Kyrillos, 14, is organizing a Students Rock Out for Sandy Ground benefit concert, which will take place on Sunday, April 27, in the school’s Blake Gymnasium. In addition to Max’s band Stone Bullets, the show will feature Bobby Bandiera, a guitarist with Bon Jovi and formerly with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Ardvark Smile, a band from the Rock’n Music Academy of Middletown, will also perform.
“I love music and I wanted to help out,” said Max. “I couldn’t think of a better way to do it.”
Kyrillos, a resident of Middletown, got the idea after he and his father, state Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, saw the storm devastation in Sea Bright and neighboring towns.
“I couldn’t believe it when I was looking around,” Max said.
This is the second year Max has organized a benefit. Last year’s show featured headliner Pat Guadagno, and brought in $3,325 for New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.
“Everyone loved the music and wanted to support what we were doing,” Max said.
Max would like to surpass that amount this year. He has gathered a group of fellow classmates from the school’s community service group to help plan the show, taking care of everything from arranging security, putting together the sound system and serving refreshments.
“It was challenging, but we have a great group of volunteers,” he said.
When it came time to book the bands, they wanted someone who would be a big draw. After Max played “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Hope for Highlands benefit in 2012, he saw Bandiera’s set and was very impressed with his talent.
“I’m a big Bobby Bandiera fan,” he said. “He’s a great guitar player, and from what I know he’s a great guy. He’s New Jersey’s best-kept secret.”
Max asked a friend of Bandiera’s to tell him about the benefit, and Bandiera was happy to participate. The show, originally planned for May 4, was changed when Bandiera was called to play with Bon Jovi that weekend.
“We changed the date because he really wanted to make it to our show,” Max said. “I’m really grateful. It would have been very easy for him to say no. I’m sure he gets asked to do a lot of this stuff, so I know how lucky I am.”
The Sandy Ground Project had been building playgrounds in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy. After the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn., it was decided that 26 playgrounds would be built to provide a living memorial to each of the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Joe and I couldn’t be prouder of Max,” said Susan Kyrillos, his mother. “He thought of this project and executed it, using his organizational skills, his love of music and his awareness of helping the community.”
Jane Denny, the community service director for The Rumson Country Day School, said that along with his sense of responsibility and compassion, Max also had a vision.
“He was very motivated in the wake of Sandy to do something where young people can make a difference and contribute to the restoration of the Shore,” she said. “He is a mature and focused young man and a role model for his peers.”
Since taking up the guitar three years ago, Max has focused all of his efforts on music, and has come a long way.
“I used to play sports, but now the guitar has consumed my life,” he said.
He formed the Stone Bullets in 2012 and the band, which covers songs from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Green Day, has played several charity events at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, a pretty big deal for a group of teenagers.
“When you’re on stage, you just do your own thing and focus on doing the best you can,” Max said. “When you leave, you realize you just played in one of the most legendary bars ever. It’s a great feeling.”
The Students Rock Out for Sandy Ground Benefit Concert will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27 at The Rumson Country Day School, 35 Bellevue Ave. Tickets are $10; children under 5 are free.