SULLIVAN HEIGHTS â€” Cambridge Elementary students have big hearts. At least thatâ€™s what school principal Antonio Vendramin thinks, and heâ€™s not alone.
What really caught his attention in his first year at the school, however, were two Grade 7 boys â€” Kyle and Marcus Wilson â€” who set up their saxophones in the courtyard by the crosswalk after school to play for their peers. What they did next shocked him.
â€œKids will get their instruments the first time and youâ€™ll hear them out in the school yard and theyâ€™ll be playing,â€ Vendramin explained.
â€œThatâ€™s pretty typical. But these boys decided to do it right out front and I went over to them and said jokingly, â€˜Hey, if youâ€™re at the corner here, why not open your cases and maybe people will throw in money?â€™ I had some change in my pocket and I threw it in, and I talked to some teachers and I encouraged them to do the same thing. So, it started innocently enough.â€
The boys â€“ who arenâ€™t related but share a surname â€“ decided to count the change, but instead of splitting the cash, they decided to hand over the money to the Surrey Food Bank.
â€œThen they kind of took that seriouslyâ€¦ so I thought that showed initiative on their part,â€ Vendramin said. Kyle and Marcus would bring the money to the schoolâ€™s office for the secretary to keep, and the school then donated the cash to the local charity.
The boys raised north of $120 for the food bank up until a fellow classmateâ€™s mom had passed away.
â€œIt was about three or four weeks ago. She had been battling breast cancer,â€ Vendramin said during an early-December interview.
â€œThis is a pretty tight-knit community, so when we talk about Grade 7, these are kids who have been together for a long time. One of the boys in particular has taken it really to heart so then they asked me, â€˜Could we, instead of raising money for the food bank, can we raise money for cancer research?â€™ And I said â€˜Of course.â€™â€
According to the schoolâ€™s new principal, the saxophone cases began getting hit with dimes and quarters, and then it became loonies and toonies, and then fives and twenties.
â€œIt kind of started to take on a life of its own,â€ he said.
When the boys are out in front of the school busking for charity bucks, saxophone cases open with their sign reading â€œ100 per cent of proceeds going towards breast cancer research,â€ and hordes of students and parents gathered around, itâ€™s clear that, indeed, what started as two friends practicing their instruments has taken on new life.
As the kids play anything from â€œHark! The Herald Angels Singâ€ to the â€˜80s hit â€œCareless Whisperâ€ in the front courtyard, their peers yell over the saxophone wails, â€œGood for you!â€ and â€œYouâ€™re doing it for a good cause!â€
Not only are Kyle and Marcus helping out others with their music, it seems to be therapeutic in a time of hardship for them, too.
â€œIt just kind of feels natural. I think music helps us relax sometimes,â€ Kyle said, looking at Marcus.
Asked if the pair consider themselves a band, both say theyâ€™re happy just to play music.
â€œWe consider ourselves two students of a band, and we just do this,â€ Marcus offered.
â€œWeâ€™re more like two pieces out of a loaf of bread, or two pieces of a pie,â€ Kyle added in.
Marcus concluded, â€œor two pieces of a puzzle.â€
They both nodded.
Vendramin, when asked why he thinks the boys decided to take on busking for charity, said the school just has â€œa lot of heart.â€
â€œItâ€™s a community that really looks out for itself and is tight-knit and jumps onboard. They know that the mom passed away and this was their way of doing something about it and not just feeling sad,â€ he said, proudly.