Ben has volunteered his time, energy, and talents for a number of local institutions. For example, Ben used to operate a roadside stand during the summer. Along with his brothers, who also worked at the stand, Ben sold fresh vegetables grown in his backyard garden, cool lemonade, and chocolate chip cookies right from the oven. At the end of summer, Ben and his brothers donated their entire earnings to The Tomorrow Fund, a local clinic of Providence’s Hasbro Children’s Hospital which cares for children with cancer and their families.
Ben has also volunteered his musical talent at such places as soup kitchens and no less than three different nursing homes in the Providence area.
One of Ben’s more recent (and perhaps largest in scope and scale) charitable experiences occurred in the spring of 2005. As part of a school project, Ben single-handedly created, developed, and executed an epic musical variety show, Variety Live! The opening montage originally filmed for the production can be played below:
Let Ben in his own words describe this charitable venture:
I had been aware of the work of The Tomorrow Fund for many years prior to tenth grade, partly because my brother was a recipient of its services. The Tomorrow Fund is headquartered in Hasbro Children’s Hospital in downtown Providence, RI and serves children with cancer and their families. In my younger years, I had operated roadside lemonade stands to raise money, however scant, for The Tomorrow Fund. But I had always yearned for an opportunity to raise substantially greater proceeds.
And an opportunity came.
In sophomore year, I was faced with the task of developing an academic or social project for PEGASUS, an educational enrichment program offered at my school. The program, which lasts from tenth to twelfth grade, has gained acclaim for its charitable work, for many students choose to develop community projects. I knew what I was going to do for my project. I had known for a long time.
I was going to create and produce, from scratch, an epic variety show to benefit The Tomorrow Fund. Being a pianist, I had always wanted to create my own production, and the confluence of variety show and charity through the PEGASUS program was inevitable.
This show I had formed in my mind was going to be a blockbuster, in every sense of the word. I immediately set to work choosing an appealing and professional name for the show—Variety Live! This was the first of the many steps involved in the planning and organization of this colossal event. The second was the identification of a date, place, and time. Though my school’s theater is frequently booked, I was able to reserve it for May 3 at 7:00 PM—no small feat, I assure you! With name, venue, date, and time in hand, I was then able to concentrate on the most important of my tasks: Assembling a cast.
Variety shows tend to work better when there are multiple people in the cast. Plus, one of my specific intentions in creating this show was to allow my fellow classmates to perform in the spotlight when they would otherwise not get the chance. So, I was able to procure as my cast a number of gifted dancers, violinists, vocalists, and pianists. We communicated frequently about the show between classes, before school at project meetings, after school at project rehearsals, and at night via e-mail.
I allowed the cast to review and change the script I had written and the order of individual performances, so that none could claim my tactics were anything less than completely democratic! I feel that people perform at their best in every situation—on stage, in the classroom, at work—when they are relaxed, are confident, and above all, have a say in what’s going on! Traditionally, directors want to do things their way, and that’s fine. But it is inarguable that the end product is exponentially greater when it is based on collaboration between director and performer. Such was, and always has been, my philosophy in regards to this matter.
Other tasks were necessary: I had to film an introductory video montage one night in the style of Saturday Night Live (darkened sky, buildings aglow, masses of people in restaurants and on the sidewalk, etc.), write a theme song to set this montage to, enlist the help of a technical crew, and craft an multimedia advertising blitz (flyers, announcements) to inform the school community of the absolute merit of this show—and of the cause which it would support, The Tomorrow Fund.
Finally, May 3rd arrived. Much sooner than I could ever have expected. But it arrived.
We started the show with some comedy. The video montage. A monologue full of visual puns. Terrific dancing. Great violin. Impeccable singing. I played several songs on the upright piano which had been wheeled into the center of the theater. The entire ensemble, myself included, collaborated on a rousing finale. And most importantly: We raised a bushel of money for The Tomorrow Fund. The amount of money raised put the petty proceeds from my lemonade stand to shame. That, to me, was the most fulfilling part of the evening.
I faced certain challenges as creator, executive producer, director, and performer of Variety Live! My planning had to be succinct and discreet and synchronous, so that all of my contacts in the school who were assisting me in the creation of this show knew its exact status. I had to tread a thin line with the advertising between a “too hip” image and a “too corny” image, since variety shows have a tendency to swing greatly in either direction away from the mainstream. I also had to maintain a relationship with The Tomorrow Fund through phone calls and letters, and ultimately, through the delivery of the cheque, the tangible culmination of years of dreaming and doing.
Beyond the initiative, creativity, and distinction I displayed with Variety Live!, I hope that it revealed my charitable and benevolent nature. Beyond single-handedly creating an entertaining production, I sacrificed my time and energy in a venture built on ensuring happiness for those who deserve it the most—The Tomorrow Fund kids. If this were my only everlasting legacy, I would be pleased beyond words.
Ben couldn’t have said it better himself. Oh wait a minute…