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2019 Alumni Leadership Grant Recap: Eunice Lee

This article was adapted from a blog post published by Eunice Lee in August 2019. It is part of our ongoing series exploring the projects launched by the recipients of our Alumni Leadership Grant.

Special thanks to the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation for their support of From the Top’s Alumni Leadership Grants.

Eunice Lee is a From the Top alum, appearing on the show in 2013. In 2019, she was selected to receive a From the Top Alumni Leadership Grant to continue a project she began in July 2018, when she organized and directed a 10-hour music marathon in Austin, Texas.  This past year, the Meridiem Music Marathon expanded to 24 hours and raised money for the children’s charity, Variety of Texas, featuring musicians of all ages, instruments, and genres.


Meridiem Memories: Results

by Eunice Lee, 2019 From the Top Alumni Leadership Grant Recipient

Wow. Where do I even begin?

As Lady Gaga so famously said, “there can be a hundred people in the room, and 99 don’t believe in you, but one does.” For me, that one was From the Top. That one that gifted me the opportunity to serve my community the best way I knew how – music.

THE BEGINNING

Eunice Lee, left, at the 2019 Meridiem Music Marathon

I started the Meridiem Music Marathon in 2018, and it was the most rewarding experience to use music as a force for social change. I learned how to build a platform for musicians to showcase their gifts for positive causes, and I desperately wanted to relive the experience for another summer.

Fast forward to 2019, I received the incredible news of my selection as a grant recipient, and I found the perfect beneficiary to support for the next music marathon: Variety – Children’s Charity of Texas. Their team instantly felt like a perfect match with our mission, and I was so proud to represent and fundraise for them. As a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of children with disabilities and special needs, Variety – Children’s Charity of Texas appealed to a cause that was deeply personal to me, as I worked with many underprivileged and disabled students. My goal for this partnership was to introduce music and the performing arts into this nonprofit as a method for fundraising and community engagement.

Once our partnership was finalized, everything began planning itself – and very quickly. We received so much community support, and international support, with renowned figures such as Stephen Schwartz, Elizabeth Joy Roe, and Kenny Broberg encouraging everyone to get involved via social media. Additionally, we had events such as profit shares, a mini-instrument petting zoo, a gala, and the music marathon itself!

With the music marathon as the main event, I was so proud that we got to showcase musicians of all ages, instruments, genres, and abilities to perform on a single stage for a single cause.

Immediately after the official end of the music marathon, my family and I went back home and made the final count of the donation total. The Meridiem Music Marathon raised $15,357 for Variety – Children’s Charity of Texas. WHAT!? That’s over eight times the amount we raised in last year’s music marathon, and my wildest dreams could never have imagined that we could have that impact.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.

I went to the Variety office to have our final meeting with the team. I was surrounded by a group of strong, passionate female leaders who shared a mission to support children with disabilities and special needs, and that alone was so empowering. They sat me down in their meeting room, and announced to me that with these funds, Variety decided to build a playground at Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children in Killeen, TX to enhance the lives of more than 6,500 Texas kids. That’s a lot of kids. And getting this news all at once was so overwhelming. This whole park would be built and opened on September 21, 2019. (Earth, Wind, and Fire — anyone?)

BUT WAIT. THAT’S NOT EVEN THE BEST PART.

Variety will build large instruments in the park for children to have fun and accessible exposure to music. This will be named the “Meridiem Instrument Petting Zoo.”

Now I don’t know about you, but at this point, I was speechless. And then they handed me this picture.

 

And that’s when I lost it. To know that the fundraising money would be going directly to furthering music education and accessibility to children of all ages and abilities was something I didn’t think was possible for me.

I had four main objectives in mind:

  1. Fundraising and building awareness about a cause I was passionate about
  2. Using music as a unifying force toward social change
  3. Providing a platform for musicians to activate their talent to make a difference within their community
  4. Educate and expose youth to music education, and build relationships to showcase significance of music education

I thought that I was successful in each of the four objectives. But with the building of the playground, this summer’s success can now be physically manifested into the form of a musical playground for children to enjoy for years and years to come. This accessibility and fun-nature of music education is something I couldn’t have even imagined for this year.

So as I got in my car to get back home, tears of joy, shock, and gratitude streamed down my face and wouldn’t seem to stop. I felt so humbled to have this opportunity, to have met an incredible group of philanthropists, and to be surrounded by the most supportive, dedicated family and friends throughout this process.

Philanthropy exists because there is inequity. And in a world where there is infinite need and finite resources, it’s difficult and overwhelming to find causes to believe in. However, being aware of your community and the power of your gifts is all you need to create innovative solutions to make the world a better place.

I want to thank From the Top’s Alumni Leadership Grant and the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation for this incredible opportunity to continue the Meridiem Music Marathon for another year. This support and experience has been incomparable.

If you want to learn more about the Meridiem Music Marathon, read more from the Meridiem Memories blog series, or visit the official Meridiem website for the full spiel.

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