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Student’s piano lessons help battle hunger

Published: Thursday, June 5, 2014 2:21 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Dan Farnham - dfarnham@shawmedia.com)
Sarah O'Donnell (left) gives a piano lesson to Daniel Balich as part of her Lemont Plays for Food organization.

LEMONT – Lemont High School sophomore Sarah O'Donnell has found a way to combine her passion for music and helping those in need.

O'Donnell founded Lemont Plays for Food this year, an organization where she gives piano lessons in exchange for monetary donations to the Lemont food pantries.

"I came up with the Lemont Plays for Food because I wanted to give back to the community while doing something that I love, which is piano," she said.

She said she chose the food pantries because hunger is one of the biggest problems in the community.

So far this year, she has raised $560.

O'Donnell, who started playing the piano in third grade, said she had no prior experience teaching piano but thought it would be cool to help children learn to play.

Though she has a lesson book to follow, she said it has been a learning experience for her, as well.

"It was difficult at first because I've never taught them," she said. "But it's gotten easier because I've learned more from teaching them."

O'Donnell is taking a year off from her own lessons at the Merit School of Music Tuition Free Conservatory in Chicago in order to focus on her organization.

She has four students, with two more asking for lessons.

Michelle Balich said she was looking for piano lessons for her 4-year-old son, Daniel, and heard about O'Donnell giving lessons because she works with O'Donnell's mother.

"I just thought it was the perfect opportunity," she said. "It's kind of nice too because he gets lessons and the money goes towards a charitable organization in the community."

O'Donnell would like to expand not only the number of students she has, but the number of teachers in her organization.

She said she does not have any other teachers yet but hopes some other students will be willing to volunteer, whether it is teaching piano or another instrument.

She will also be going to local businesses this summer looking for donations for the food pantries.

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More about Sarah O'Donnell

Age: 16

School: Sophomore at Lemont High School

Activities: Mathaletes, scholastic bowl and Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering

Hobbies: Reading

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