Samantha Varrone performs as part of Tunes for Tots, which has raised more than $25,000 for Make-A-Wish Southern Florida.
By Randy Abraham, Special Correspondent
A group of young musicians and singers who perform Saturday afternoons at Westfield Broward in Plantation has raised enough for the local Make-A-Wish chapter to fund wishes for five children facing life-threatening conditions.
Tunes for Tots grew out of a community service project Jason Shockey completed. He said he was struck by the level of talent he saw in two youths who were in the project.
“There was an 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl there that were extraordinarily talented, heads and shoulders above anyone in the room,” Shockey said. “I found out that there are a lot of talented performers who don’t have a place to perform, and I wanted to connect these musicians with each other, give them a sense of purpose, and connect them with the larger community.”
With that, Tunes for Tots had its first event in April 2011. Since then, it has teams forming all across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
“We decided to branch out and go worldwide. We currently have more than 1,400 artists worldwide who participate,” said Shockey, of Fort Lauderdale. “… We perform in a variety of venues. For our shows, we focus on music venues … [and] we also perform in theaters, malls and at beaches and fairs.”
The group raises money by selling tickets to concerts and soliciting donations during free events. The group is establishing a charity arm in the future, but for now is raising money for Make-A-Wish.
“They’re creating a culture of philanthropy; when they’re out there singing, they’re also spreading our word,” said Norman Wedderburn, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida.
Since Tunes for Tots started, it has raised more than $25,000 for the chapter, enough to fund wishes for five children, Wedderburn said.
Andrew Martineau, marketing director at Westfield Broward, said the group is a good match with the mall.
“They really complement the mall atmosphere,” he said. “… We provide them a venue to perform, it provides entertainment for our customers, and it gives us an opportunity to help a charity.”
Samantha Varrone sings with the group and serves as event and talent coordinator. She joined three years ago at age 14.
“As a performer, I was afraid to go on stage, and this has given me more confidence,” said Varrone, of Weston. “… I think it’s important for us, as children, to do what we can to make the lives of other children better.”
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