2012-12-21 / Neighbors

Student donates winnings to Red Cross

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

American Red Cross Regional Chief Development Offi cer Tammy Atwood accepts a gift from Elizabeth Albahary, who received a special Red Cross holiday ornament as a token of thanks. (Courtesy photo) American Red Cross Regional Chief Development Offi cer Tammy Atwood accepts a gift from Elizabeth Albahary, who received a special Red Cross holiday ornament as a token of thanks. (Courtesy photo) Music can be a powerful thing for many people. For one Scarborough student, music provided the inspiration to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which swept through the northeast on Oct. 29 and caused irreversible damage in New York and New Jersey.

Elizabeth Albahary, a fifth-grade student at Wentworth Intermediate School, decided to donate her prize winnings to the American Red Cross relief efforts to victims of Hurricane Sandy after winning the state competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing at Bates College Nov. 17,

Albahary said the inspiration to make a donation came to her after watching “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together,” a benefit televised on NBC Friday, Nov. 2 for the American Red Cross relief efforts.

Many of music’s biggest stars were featured, and Albahary said she was particularly touched by Billy Joel’s performance of “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” Joel performed the song, with slightly reworked lyrics, in front of a montage of photos of hurricane damage in New York and New Jersey, where Albahary said she has family and friends.

“I felt bad. Everyone lost everything. I couldn’t imagine losing all my memories and not having a place to stay. That really touched my heart,” Albahary said Wednesday, Dec. 12, the day another benefit, the 12/12/12 concert, was held at Madison Square Garden in New York to raise money for victims in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Albahary made a donation to the Nov. 2 telecast, but after winning the competition, she saw an opportunity to do more to help. She asked her mother, Michelle, if she could donate the $50 monetary prize to the American Red Cross.

“I chose the Red Cross because they get the money where it’s needed to get help there right away,” Albahary said.

It was an act of kindness that impressed Jason Shedlock, regional director of communications and government relations for the American Red Cross.

“Along with helping to provide our neighbors to the south with hot food and a warm place to stay, her selflessness also warms the hearts of Mainers everywhere,” Shedlock said. “She’s truly a special young lady and the American Red Cross is both proud and humbled to call her a supporter.”

Albahary, who was encouraged to enter the competition by voice instructor Judith James, said she participated with little expectation of winning.

“It was fun because it was a new experience,” Albahary said. “I like singing and the joy of it. I practiced a lot for it.”

Albahary said she started practicing the two songs she sang in the competition — “Be Kind to Your Parents,” from the 1950s musical “Fanny” and “The Colors of My Life” from “Barnum,” a musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum — in mid-October.

Albahary said the NATS competition helped her become more focused on her singing. It also helped her to get more comfortable on stage. Over the last few years, Albahary has appeared in plays on professional and community theater stages throughout southern Maine, including the Old Port Playhouse in Portland, Arundel Playhouse and Ogunquit Playhouse. Most recently Albahary performed in Portland Players’ staging of “Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical.”

Above all, however, the experience has taught her how it feels to give to those in need. Albahary, who, as a Girl Scout has volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland and the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough, said she will continue her charitable efforts.

Although it is has been more than a month since the hurricane made landfall, Albahary said the need is still there.

“They will always need something. They will always need a hand. It’s really good to give them one,” Albahary said.

Her attitude has inspired many of her classmates at Wentworth. Currently K-Kids, a youth service group at Wentworth sponsored by Scarborough Kiwanis, is raffling off six stuffed animals to benefit hurricane victims through the American Red Cross. The raffle is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 21.

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