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Teen’s nonprofit Music Mission hits all the right chords

Appleton youth honored with Community First’s Youth Scholarship Award

Thursday, April 21, 2016
It’s hard to believe that Leah Witthuhn is a still teenager when you hear about her accomplishments and listen to her thoughtful and mature outlook on life.
 
Leah’s impressive resume and devotion to helping others through her musical talents, passion for getting involved and organizational skills led to her being honored as the Community First-sponsored Youth Scholarship Award winner at the 19th annual Celebrating Our Volunteers event at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel.
 
In presenting the Appleton East HS senior with a $1,500 scholarship and a $1,000 award at the April 19 banquet, Community First President/CEO Cathie Tierney said, “Leah is an incredible young leader with an amazing heart and a very bright future.”
 
Leah, 17, donated the $1,000 award to The Music Mission, the nonprofit organization she created two years ago to help needy children improve their lives through music. She receives new or gently-used donated musical instruments and then gifts them to needy youths who want to play.
 
Leah, who grew up as the only child of musician parents (Lori and Tim) and started playing guitar at age 5, also provides beginner music lessons to some with financial hardships. “I have three students that I teach that I love to death and they’re really progressing,” she said.
 
‘A thriving community gem’
 
“The Music Mission is a thriving community gem,” said Annamarie Engelhard, donor services manager, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. “Leah is a very driven and empowered young lady. She is organized, focused, compassionate and respectful. Leah leads by example and addresses issues by creating and executing unique solutions.”
 
DeDe Heid, executive vice president of Heid Music, said Leah not only had a dream but had the savvy, resourcefulness and drive needed to make The Music Mission a reality. “It takes some people a lifetime to learn the value of philanthropy and the importance of helping others,” Heid said. “To find a dedicated young woman that is so determined to do so much for others is incredible.”
 
As a sophomore, Leah was chosen to attend the Wisconsin Leadership Seminars event at UW-Whitewater. “It really changed my life,” she said. “It really inspired me to be who I am and make an impact on the world.”
She subsequently joined the WILS alumni group and has served as public relations director the past two years. “I love to pay it forward so being able to start this nonprofit – and give music to kids that were like me and couldn’t really afford it but really wanted to pursue it – has been really amazing,” said Leah, who will continue her education and pursuing dreams at Carroll University.
 
In closing, Leah told the Celebrating Our Volunteers crowd, “I’m incredibly proud and humble to win this award and I will continue to be a giver, a role model and a volunteer.”

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