'No greater healer than music': Buffalo Grove singers putting ukuleles in hands of sick children

A new public art display at the Buffalo Grove Park District's Community Arts Center will feature a wall of painted ukuleles.

The instruments are not there only to be admired for their aesthetic value. They are there to be bought, with proceeds benefiting a charity that puts ukuleles in the hands of hospitalized children participating in music therapy.

It's part of a fundraiser led by the BG Singers, the Buffalo Grove Park District's choral group, to benefit Florida-based Ukulele Kids Club Inc. The proceeds from each sale - they're $100 apiece - will allow the organization to buy two ukuleles for young hospital patients.

The ukuleles will be on display at the arts center, 225 McHenry Road, until the end of September, when the BG Singers give their first performances in four years, from Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in the center's auditorium.

Over that weekend, the singers will present a donation to Corey Bergman, who founded the Ukulele Kids Club in 2013 after he began playing guitar at hospitals in Miami as a way of coping with the loss of his son, Jared.

Since then, the nonprofit has sent more than 15,000 ukuleles to 340 locations across the world, including Ukraine. The ukuleles are medical-grade, with a special finish that can be used in hospitals.

Once the BG Singers' fundraiser is over, the Ukulele Kids Club will work with hospitals in the Chicago area to connect children with ukuleles.

"There is no greater healer than music," said Linda Rosen, leader and conductor of the BG Singers.

Rosen and her co-leader of the ukulele initiative, singer Cathy Novak, did some heavy lifting last week with as they and fellow volunteers set up the gallery. Visitors this month can view about 30 ukuleles that reflect the creativity of local artists, including Karen Meadows.

Meadows glued fused glass onto one of the ukuleles to add a third dimension to her vision of the Old City of Jerusalem.

"All of those pieces had to be cut and done in a kiln after the design was done and painted," she said.

The group began the effort last year with seed money to purchase ukuleles from donors including Friends of the Parks Foundation and the Village of Buffalo Grove Community Foundation. Local artists donated their time to paint the ukuleles, and Guitar Center and Sam Ash Music Stores pitched in by donating some of the instruments.

Ukuleles have proved effective tools for music therapists such as Victoria Vitale, who works with children in the neonatal intensive care unit and the pediatric intensive care unit at Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge.

Vitale teaches the children to play the instrument with a system using different colored strings and numbers assigned to the fingers.

"If the patient doesn't know how to read music, that doesn't matter," she said. "It's not that challenging for teens to pick up, whereas the guitar is much more complicated."

"Also, every patient I'm working with is either sitting in a bed, laying in a bed or sitting in a chair," Vitale added. "The ukulele is a really nice size for patients in a hospital."

A fundraising drive is nothing new for the BG Singers. The group has supported charitable causes for 28 years, aiming to "heal the world" through music. Past endeavors have included sending instruments to hospitals and replacing children's instruments lost when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.

Anyone interested in purchasing one of the ukuleles can contact Novak at

"For a very small amount of money, you can make a huge difference in a child's healing process," Rosen said.

The BG Singers' performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 and 3 p.m. Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the Community Arts Center, 225 McHenry Road in Buffalo Grove. Tickets are available at

  Ukuleles like this one in a display case at the Buffalo Grove Park District's Community Arts Center will be on public view in September. They are part of a fundraising effort by the BG Singers, a Buffalo Grove choral group. Steve Zalusky/
  Karen Meadows was one of several volunteers setting up the gallery of ukuleles that will be displayed in September at the Buffalo Grove Park District Community Arts Center. The ukuleles will be sold to benefit a charity that provides the instruments to young people battling serious illnesses. Steve Zalusky/
  Cathy Novak, president of the Buffalo Grove Friends of the Parks Foundation, helps set up the display of ukuleles at the Buffalo Grove Park District's Community Arts Center. The ukuleles are on sale, with proceeds benefiting Ukulele Kids Club Inc. Steve Zalusky/
  Karen Meadows' 3D rendering of the Old City of Jerusalem adorns one of about 30 ukuleles on display at the Buffalo Grove Park District's Community Arts Center. Steve Zalusky/
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