© SUEANN MUSICK – THE NEWS
Phillip MacKenzie of New Glasgow sits beside a flag that hung outside his cabin at the Atlantic Burn Camp in Cape Breton. He donated his time as well as 23 guitars and seven violins to the camp for the children to keep.
NEW GLASGOW – Phillip MacKenzie has strummed his way into the hearts of 12 young burn victims.
The New Glasgow resident recently returned from the Atlantic Burn Camp after donating his time and 23 guitars to the Cape Breton camp.
“You don’t realize how lucky and fortunate you are until you walk away,”MacKenzie told The News.“When you see these kids, it’s really emotional.“
MacKenzie has been collecting donations for guitars for the past year to donate to children, ages six to 17 years, attending the burn camp.
In addition to the guitars, he also donated seven violins to the camp in honour of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School of Newtown, Connecticut.
Only 12 children attended the camp this year from across the Maritimes and two others were given to former students who are now counselors. The other nine, along with violins, will be kept in storage and given to the children attending next year’s camp.
MacKenzie said experience was very therapeutic and rewarding for him as well. Not only did he donate the guitars and violins, along with all of their accessories, he also instructed the children on how to play the guitars over the course of the week, in addition to helping out with other camp activities.
“I had a child in our cabin say,‘I am really, really going to try to learn to play the guitar when I get back Newfoundland.’These were the last words he said to me. He said that was the first time he has been given such a gift.”
MacKenzie said the children couldn’t believe they were able to leave the camp with their own guitars.
“There were lots of hugs and stuff like that,”he said.“I told them this is not a one-man show. I said this is something that people got together and it’s been laid on their hearts to give. I told them I am just a recipient of this project.”
He said Pictou County’s generosity in this project has been strong from the beginning. In particular, he remembers Raymond and Marj Levangie making an early donation of electric amp instruments and Fred and Dee Avery stopping by home with a gift card to use on his way to Cape Breton.
MacKenzie first came up with the idea of teaching music lessons at the camp and providing the children with guitars after watching a Pictou child being interviewed on television while he was attending the camp.
He said playing music gives the children a new confidence and lets them concentrate on something other than their burns.
“I have been very lucky,” he said. “The scars these children have are for life and they are going to have to deal with it the rest of their life. I don’t think something like that is fully 100 per cent accepted because every once in a while they will ask, ‘why me’?”
He said the guitars take them out of their shell and allow them to connect with other people who share an interest in music.
“It takes them out of their bedrooms and getting the thinking that they can really do this,” he said. “The first thing you know, they meet someone else that plays the guitar.”
MacKenzie said he was invited back to the camp for next year and he won’t be going empty handed. He is planning on hosting guitar lessons this winter and using the money he earns to purchase one violin a month for the camp.
Anyone wanting to make a donation to Atlantic Burn Camp can find out more information atwww.cbfburncare.ca