Seana Jae De Los Santos, third from front left, is a former SickKids patient. She and the rest of the St. James Youth Choir are excited to be doing a special performance at the second annual Above and Beyond Concert to raise money for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Photo courtesy of Allison Hunwicks

St. James youth rock for SickKids

By  Emma Hunter, Youth Speak News
  • April 1, 2016

Choir practices at St. James parish in Toronto have been especially exciting as the youth choir prepares for its biggest concert yet.

St. James Youth Choir is doing a special performance at this year’s “Above and Beyond Concert: Rock for SickKids,” taking place at the Mod Club on April 8. The concert is a community-based charity function to benefit the Hospital for Sick Children. The concert helps to raise awareness for the SickKids Foundation and provides a place for local artists and musicians to donate their talents and raise their voices to make a difference.  

This concert will be very special for nine-year-old choir member Seana Jae De Los Santos, who is actually a patient at the world-renowned hospital in downtown Toronto. Seana was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism in 2013 at the age of six, a very rare disease for kids her age. For almost four years, she regularly received radiation treatments at SickKids.

Seana responded to the treatments well and she is much better now, but she still has regular visits with her doctors to moniter her health. She said her experience there has only been positive. Now that she has an opportunity to give back, she is excited for the chance to do it with her friends.

“I want to help SickKids because they have helped me and SickKids is like my second home,” she said. “I also want to help other children in need like me.”

Allison Hunwicks, who is the choir director, said the youth choir is very excited to perform at this year’s event. This is one of the biggest concerts and largest venues where the St. James Youth Choir has performed. Family, friends and teachers are also attending the event to support the choir.

“It’s nice to have kids singing for a foundation that is about helping kids,” said Hunwicks. “It’s not only a huge accomplishment musically, but it is also a great way for them to be able to exercise that part of their faith which is reaching out and helping others.”

The choir is made up of 13 students ranging in age from seven to 14. The choir got connected to the Above & Beyond Concert because a parishioner at St. James heard the choir sing at Mass and recommended the choir be a part of the concert fundraiser.

The Above and Beyond Concert grew out of the desire of Jason Lavers to give back to SickKids in a way that used his talents, and he “always wanted to do something for SickKids.” Being part of a band, Lavers got the idea to have a musical event to raise money and awareness for a cause that is close to his heart.

More than 550 people attended the inaugural concert last year and raised almost $12,000.

Lavers calls it a “homegrown event” and a unique fundraiser. Lavers said there are “lots of functions and events to benefit SickKids in Toronto, but you don’t see too many rock concerts for it.”

This year’s program features five bands, followed by a reception for sponsors, the bands and crew.

(Hunter, 24, is a first-year Master’s student in history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.)

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