Dan Walsh logs more miles than most musicians. Whether it’s playing across Canada or gigging in far-flung locales such as Thailand, the bluesy-bluegrass musician averages 230 gigs per year. But this past Christmas, the multi-instrumentalist, once a member of Fred Eaglesmith's band The Flying Squirrels, spent just as much time in his car, doing something that brings him more joy than performing for audiences—giving the gift of music to less fortunate kids in his community.
“We put 80 guitars back into the community this past December,” Walsh tells SamaritanMag. “I had seven crying mothers. I did not know how to deal with that. I’ve been very lucky in my life and sometimes we don’t realize how difficult other peoples’ lives are.”
Walsh is president of the Cambridge, Ont. based not-for-profit Guitars for Kids. The not-for-profit was started five years ago as an offshoot of Cambridge Live Music. Its mandate: take in old, used, and donated guitars, refurbish them and get them into the hands of children who normally would not have the opportunity to afford an instrument.
Bob Egan planted the seeds of this successful philanthropic program. The former pedal steel player for Blue Rodeo and Wilco, who is now the manager, community development for the Kitchener Public Library, made it his mission when he opened his guitar repair shop, Bob’s Guitar Service, a decade ago to give guitars to kids who could not afford them.
“I told this mission to everyone who walked through the door and soon donations began arriving,” Egan says. “I trained a group of volunteers to repair these guitars and started distributing them, primarily through social service agencies and the school boards. They would identify the kids and we would provide the guitars.”
Flash forward a few years and Cambridge Live Music was looking for ways to better serve the community; Egan started Guitars for Kids with them. He ran it for the first year or so repairing and distributing 70 guitars during that time.
“Thankfully Dan [Walsh] entered the picture and took over managing both Cambridge Live Music and Guitars for Kids,” Egan says. “Dan has done an astounding job weaving Guitars for Kids into the fabric of his community by holding events, forming civic and commercial partnerships, and meeting the needs of the kids by providing them lessons and involving them in community activities.
-- Continue reading David McPherson's feature about Dan Walsh's philanthropy on the SamaritanMag website.