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Guitars for Kids blasts into Toronto, donations welcome!

Modelled after Kitchener program started by Blue Rodeo's Bob Egan


Doris Moro (left) and her husband Dave Wharry, in the music room of their Etobicoke home, are the founders of Guitars for Kids Toronto. The volunteer-driven initiative solicits donated guitars, rehabilitates them, and directs them to children in need. - Staff/Metroland

Olivia rocked her shiny new hot pink electric guitar in her equally pink outfit.

The 10-year-old member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto seemed astonished by her good fortune.

“She just couldn’t believe it. She was so excited,” said Alexandra Gruber, director of programs with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto. “Her smile was ear-to-ear. It definitely fit her personality.”

Dave Wharry and his wife, Doris Moro, recently founded the non-profit Guitars for Kids Toronto, which solicits used guitars and financial donations, rehabilitates the instruments to near-new condition and donates them to children and youth in need across the city.

To date, the central Etobicoke couple has received a request for 60 guitars for kids, ages seven to 15, in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto program.

The kids are open to either acoustic or electric guitars, for which they also receive an amplifier.

“They light up as soon as they open the case. It’s really special,” Gruber said of the 15 youth who’ve received a guitar so far. “'Oh, my gosh. Is this for me? I can take it home?’ they ask. It’s really cool to see.”

Wharry and Moro are working toward registered Canadian charity status for their volunteer organization with four board members.

“Improving lives one guitar at a time” is the non-profit’s motto.

Wharry and Moro modelled their organization after Guitars for Kids Cambridge, founded by Blue Rodeo’s Bob Egan after he met musician Dan Walsh, who now runs it, following a live performance in Toronto.

Guitars for Kids Cambridge has given away 250 guitars in the past four years, Wharry said.

“How great is that? What an amazing thing to do,” he said. “We asked if somebody was doing it in Toronto.”

KAOS Music in The Kingsway at 3052 Bloor St. W. has donated some guitars and is serving as a drop-off centre, as is Capsule Music at 985 Dovercourt Rd.

D’Addario Canada, the world’s largest manufacturer of guitar strings, provides free strings, as well as guitar picks, straps and cases.

“We’ve gotten really strong support whenever we’ve asked anyone for help,” Wharry said.

Guitars for Kids Toronto accepts donations of any and all guitars, including acoustic and electric, classical, beginner, full-size, three-quarters, right-handed, left-handed and bass guitars, as well as amplifiers.

“We’re spreading music to kids whose parents maybe aren’t musical or who can’t afford it,” Moro said. “The power of learning a musical instrument improves cognitive abilities, helps depression, self-confidence, and creates a distraction when bad things happen.”

Wharry agreed: “Playing an instrument is strongly related to success in Science Technology Engineering Math, the ability to code and to learn languages. There are all these amazing benefits. We’re really mining a resource that already exists.”

Visit www.guitarsforkidstoronto.com for more information.

by Tamara Shephard

Tamara Shephard is a news reporter with The Etobicoke Guardian. Reach her at tshephard@toronto.com . Follow her on Twitter and Toronto.com

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