How ukuleles are helping kids in children’s hospitals

A musical instrument popular in the 1920s will be helping out patients in children’s hospitals thanks to Buffalo Grove groups and an international charity.

The BG Singers, the Buffalo Grove Friends of the Parks Foundation and the Buffalo Grove Community Foundation have teamed up with the Ukulele Kids Club to raise funds from local businesses to put ukuleles in the hands of the young patients, and enlist music therapists, to help ease their hospital stay.

Not only do the kids get to take the instruments home, but the donating businesses also receive a ukulele decorated by local artists that they can display in their shops. The business displays will be included in a “ukulele crawl” planned for late 2023.

Right now, businesses are being asked to donate $100 each, which buys a ukulele for a hospital and one instrument for the business to display.

Linda Rosen, director of the 75-member BG Singers choral group, said the charitable effort is part of an annual tradition that included donating a defibrillator to the park district and arranging to bring music and instruments to a store in New York devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

The ukuleles are supplied through the Ukulele Kids Club, a global nonprofit started in 2014 by musician Corey Bergman and his wife, Edda, after the loss of their son, Jared, in 2013.

Bergman said that as he volunteered in Miami hospitals, playing guitar for young patients and their families, he “could plainly see that the act of listening to and playing music, and holding an instrument, has a deep positive effect on a child. All the anxiety and fear of the hospital just fades away and this kid becomes a kid again,” he wrote on his website.



Now, the organization works with more than 300 music programs worldwide.

“We chose this club because they love music and they know there is therapeutic evidence that children do so much better when they are surrounded by music,” Rosen said.

Cathy Novak, president of the Friends of the Parks Foundation, said music therapists teach the children how to use the ukuleles. The children can continue with online lessons through the club.

Comer Children’s Hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Advocate Children’s Hospitals and Dynamic Links, a music therapy facility in Oak Park, are all participating.

Rosen said the effort began in 2020 when the singers raised $4,700 for the project. Later, another $3,000 was raised jointly by the singers, the Friends of the Parks Foundation and the Buffalo Grove Community Foundation. This enabled the group to send 30 ukuleles.



Since November, the group has raised $3,000 from local businesses, funding 40 more ukuleles.

Such local artists as Paula Nathan, illustrator of the children’s book “Grinelda, the Mad Hatter,” and Hillary Laff-Meyers, one of the artists who designed the lighthouses on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, decorated ukuleles for the businesses.

As with the other businesses that donated $100, MCJ Jewelers in Buffalo Grove received one ukulele, painted with a jewelry motif, while a second ukulele was donated to one of the hospitals — it had a pickleball theme in honor of owner Craig Jacobson and his wife’s fondness for the sport.

“I love it. I think it’s great,” Jacobson said. “Anytime you can put a smile on a kid’s face, it’s great.”

Pediatrician Richard Pervos, of Sanders Court Pediatrics, said he donated $200 and will have one ukulele in the Arlington Heights office and another at his Buffalo Grove location.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Pervos said. “Music therapy is wonderful for kids. And the ukuleles are beautiful.”

Businesses interested in donating can reach Rosen at [email protected] or Novak at [email protected].


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