Teacher organizes ukulele donations for Paradise students

There is a unique effort underway in the East Bay to help a group of students from Paradise who've lost their homes and other belongings. 

Their former teacher wrote an email asking for a particular musical instrument and word of mouth spread quickly.   

John McCormick, owner of Lamorinda Music of Lafayette responded by reaching out to Bay Area ukulele clubs to ask for donations of new ukuleles for students who've lost theirs in the Camp Fire. 

On Friday night, Lamorinda Music was playing a different tune. It was not selling instruments.  

McCormick, his family and employees were tuning, assembling and packing 120 ukuleles that will be donated to students ages 12 through 17. 

"Instruments like this might not be as high priority as food or shelter and in some ways it's not.  But this is going to be, it's going to bring peace to a lot of kids," said Lauren Zampa, director of operations for Lamorinda Music.   

Store owner McCormick says he learned about the students' plight through an email from .Tim Hull, the Chico school teacher who had taught the students how to play the ukulele.  

"They need ukuleles. We can do that so we put in a request to our ukulele club," said McCormick.

He also reached out to other Bay Area ukulele clubs. McCormick took action Thursday morning. By day's end, he received $7,000 in donations to buy new ukuleles for the students.  

"We picked up 12 ukuleles, 120 bags that go with the ukuleles and then 120 tuners like this to help tune the ukuleles," said McCormick. 

The teacher shared with KTVU a video of the students performing. The sound of a ukulele is soothing and peaceful, perhaps an instrument of hope as fire victims cope with loss and uncertainty. 

"A kid can hold it and say it makes me feel a little bit better, a little happier in the sad times, a great instrument, something to play," said Scotty McCormick, the store owner's son.    

With each ukulele,  Zampa is including what she describes as a love letter she wrote to the students,"We hope they bring joy in the days to come. We can't wait for the world to hear the music you'll make."   

This group at Lamorinda Music says the outpouring of support reflects the spirit of community in the face of a disaster. 

"Just knowing that these kids will be getting a little piece of home back after everything they've lost," said Zampa.

The ukuleles will be picked on Saturday and given to the students. 

The hope is that they  will be able to play these instruments in a benefit concert to help fire victims.